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       Making Art and Commerce Thrive
           in the Hybrid Economy



First published in the United States by The Penguin Press, 2008

First published in Great Britain 2008

Bloomsbury Academic
An imprint of Bloomsbury Academic plc
36 Soho Square
London W1D 3QY

Copyright © Lawrence Lessig 2008

CC 2008 Lawrence Lessig. This work is avaiable under the Creative Commons Attribution
Non-Commercial Licence.

A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN: 9-781-4081-1347-9

This book is produced using paper that is made from wood grown in managed, sustainable forests.
It is natural, renewable, recyclable. The logging and manufacturing processes conform to the
enviromental regulations of the country of origin.

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ldt, St Ives plc

                         To two teachers,
                 L. Ray Patterson and Jack Valenti


   Preface                              xiii

   INTRODUCTION                          1

                     Part I: Cultures
1. CULTURES OF OUR PAST                    23

   RW Culture Versus RO Culture          28

   Limits in Regulation                  31

2. CULTURES OF OUR FUTURE                  34

3. RO, EXTENDED                            36

   Nature Remade                         38

   Re-remaking Nature                    40

   Recoding Us                           43

4. RW, REVIVED                             51

   Writing Beyond Words                  53

   Remixed: Text                         57

   Remixed: Media                        68

   The Significance of Remix              76

   The Old in the New                    82

5. CULTURES COMPARED                                    84

      Differences in Value—and “Values”                 84

      Differences in Value (As in $)                    88

      Differences in Value (As in “Is It Any Good?”)   90

      Differences in Law (As in “Is It Allowed?”)       97

      Lessons About Cultures                           105

                        Part II: Economies
   COMMERCIAL AND SHARING                              117

      Commercial Economies                             119

      Three Successes from the Internet’s
      Commercial Economy                               122

      Three Keys to These Three Successes              128

      Little Brother                                   132

      The Character of Commercial Success              141

      Sharing Economies                                143

      Internet Sharing Economies                       155

      The Paradigm Case: Wikipedia                     156

      Beyond Wikipedia                                 162

      What Sharing Economies Share                     172

7. HYBRID ECONOMIES                                    177

      The Paradigm Case: Free Software                 179

      Beyond Free Software                             185

8. ECONOMY LESSONS                                     225
      Parallel Economies Are Possible                  225

        Tools Help Signal Which Economy a Creator
        Creates For                                        226

        Crossovers Are Growing                             227

        Strong Incentives Will Increasingly Drive
        Commercial Entities to Hybrids                     228

        Perceptions of Fairness Will in Part Mediate the
        Hybrid Relationship Between Sharing and
        Commercial Economies                               231

        “Sharecropping” Is Not Likely to Become a
        Term of Praise                                     243

        The Hybrid Can Help Us Decriminalize Youth         248

                  Part III: Enabling the Future
9. REFORMING LAW                                          253

        1. Deregulating Amateur Creativity                 254

        2. Clear Title                                     260

        3. Simplify                                        266

        4. Decriminalizing the Copy                        268

        5. Decriminalizing File Sharing                    271

10. REFORMING US                                             274

        Chilling the Control Freaks                        274

        Showing Sharing                                    276

        Rediscovering the Limits of Regulation             280

        CONCLUSION                                         289

        Acknowledgments                                    295
        Notes                                              299
        Index                                              319


In early 2007, I was at dinner with some friends in Berlin. We
were talking about global warming. After an increasingly intense
exchange about the threats from climate change, one overeager
American at the table blurted, “We need to wage a war on carbon.
Governments need to mobilize. Get our troops on the march!”
Then he fell back into his chair, proud of his bold resolve, sipping a
bit too much of the wildly too-expensive red wine.

It was obvious that my friend was speaking metaphorically. Car-
bon is not an “enemy.” Not even an American marine could fight it.
Yet, as I looked around the table, a kind of reticence seemed to float
above our German companions. “What does that look mean?” I
asked one of my friends. After a short pause, he almost whispered,
“Germans don’t like war.”

The response sparked a rare moment of recognition (in me).
Of course, no one was talking about using guns to fight carbon.
Or even carbon polluters. Yet, for obvious reasons, the associations
with war in Germany are strongly negative. The whole country,
but especially Berlin, is draped in constant reminders of the costs of
that country’s twentieth-century double blunder.

But in America, associations with war are not necessarily
negative. I don’t mean that we are a war-loving people; I mean that
our history has allowed us to like the idea of waging war. Not out
of choice, but as a remedy to a great wrong. War is a sacrifice that
we have made, and in one recent case at least, a sacrifice to a very
good end. We thus romanticize that sacrifice.

That romance in turn allows the metaphor to spread into other
social or political conflicts. We wage war on drugs, on poverty, on
terrorism, on racism. There is a war on government waste, a war on
crime, a war on spam, a war on guns, and a war on cancer. As Pro-
fessors George Lakoff and Mark Johnson describe, each of these
“wars” produces a “network of entailments.” Those entailments
then frame and drive social policy. As they put it, in discussing
President Carter’s “moral equivalent of war” speech:

    There was an “enemy,” a “threat to national security,” which
    required “setting targets,” “reorganizing priorities,” “establishing
    a new chain of command,” “plotting new strategy,” “gathering
    intelligence,” “marshaling forces,” “imposing sanctions,” “calling
    for sacrifices,” and on and on. The WAR metaphor highlighted
    certain realities and hid others. The metaphor was not merely a
    way of viewing reality; it constituted a license for policy change
    and political and economic action. The very acceptance of the
    metaphor provided grounds for certain interferences: there was
    an external, foreign, hostile enemy (pictured by cartoonist in Arab
    headdress); energy needed to be given top priorities; the populace
    would have to make sacrifices; if we didn’t meet the threat we
    would not survive.1

A fight for survival has obvious implications. Such fights get
waged without limit. It is cowardly to question the cause. Dissent is
an aid to the enemy—treason, or close enough. Victory is the only
result one may contemplate, at least out loud. Compromise is always

These entailments make obvious sense during conflicts such as
World War II, when there really was a fight for survival; my spark
of Lakoffian recognition, however, was to see just how danger-
ous these entailments are when the war metaphor gets applied in
contexts in which, in fact, survival is not at stake.

Think, for example, about the “war on drugs.” Fighting debili-
tating chemical addiction is no doubt an important social objec-
tive. I have seen firsthand the absolute destruction it causes. But
the “war on drugs” metaphor prevents us from recognizing that
there may be other, more important objectives that the war is
threatening. Think about the astonishingly long prison terms fac-
ing even small-time dealers—the Supreme Court, for example, has
upheld a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the pos-
session of 672 grams of cocaine.2 Think about ghettos burdened by
the drug trade. Think about governments in Latin America that
have no effectively independent judiciary or even army because
the wealth produced by prohibition enables the drug lords to cap-
ture their control. And then think about the fact that this war has
had essentially no effect on terminating the supply of drugs. One
doesn’t notice these inconvenient truths in the middle of a war. To
see them, you need a truce. You need to step back from the war to
ask, How much is it really costing? Is the results really worth the

The inspiration for this book is the copyright wars, by which right-
thinking sorts mean not the “war” on copyright “waged” by “pirates”
but the “war” on “piracy,” which “threatens” the “survival” of certain
important American industries.

This war too has an important objective. Copyright is, in my
view at least, critically important to a healthy culture. Properly bal-
anced, it is essential to inspiring certain forms of creativity. Without
it, we would have a much poorer culture. With it, at least properly
balanced, we create the incentives to produce great new works that
otherwise would not be produced.

But, like all metaphoric wars, the copyright wars are not actual
conflicts of survival. Or at least, they are not conflicts for survival
of a people or a society, even if they are wars of survival for certain
businesses or, more accurately, business models. Thus we must keep
in mind the other values or objectives that might also be affected by
this war. We must make sure this war doesn’t cost more than it is
worth. We must be sure it is winnable, or winnable at a price we’re
willing to pay.

I believe we should not be waging this war. I believe so not
because I think copyright is unimportant. Instead, I believe in
peace because the costs of this war wildly exceed any benefit, at least
when you consider changes to the current regime of copyright that
could end this war while promising artists and authors the protec-
tion that any copyright system is intended to provide.

In the past, I’ve tried to advance this view for peace by focusing
on the costs of this war to innovation, to creativity, and, ultimately,
to freedom. My aim in The Future of Ideas was to defend industries
that never get born for fear of the insane liability that the current
regime of copyright imposes. My subject in Free Culture was the
forms of creative expression and freedom that get trampled by the
extremism of defending a regime of copyright built for a radically
different technological age.

But I finished Free Culture just as my first child was born. And
in the four years since, my focus, or fears, about this war have
changed. I don’t doubt the concerns I had about innovation, cre-
ativity, and freedom. But they don’t keep me awake anymore. Now
I worry about the effect this war is having upon our kids. What
is this war doing to them? Whom is it making them? How is it
changing how they think about normal, right-thinking behavior?
What does it mean to a society when a whole generation is raised
as criminals?

This is not a new question. Indeed, it was the question that the
former, now late, head of the Motion Picture Association of Amer-
ica, Jack Valenti, asked again and again as he fought what he called
a “terrorist war” against “piracy.”3 It was the question he asked a
Harvard audience the first time he and I debated the issue. In his
brilliant and engaging opening, Valenti described another talk
he had just given at Stanford, at which 90 percent of the students
confessed to illegally downloading music from Napster. He asked
a student to defend this “stealing.” The student’s response was sim-
ple: Yes, this might be stealing, but everyone does it. How could
it be wrong? Valenti then asked his Stanford hosts: What are you
teaching these kids? “What kind of moral platform will sustain
this young man in his later life?”

This wasn’t the question that interested me in that debate. I
blathered on about the framers of our Constitution, about incen-
tives, and about limiting monopolies. But Valenti’s question is pre-
cisely the question that interests me now: “What kind of moral
platform will sustain this young man in his later life?” For me,
“this young man” represents my two young sons. For you, it may be
your daughter, or your nephew. But for all of us, whether we have
kids or not, Valenti’s question is exactly the question that should
concern us most. In a world in which technology begs all of us to
create and spread creative work differently from how it was created
and spread before, what kind of moral platform will sustain our
kids, when their ordinary behavior is deemed criminal? Who will
they become? What other crimes will to them seem natural?

Valenti asked this question to motivate Congress—and anyone
else who would listen—to wage an ever more effective war against
“piracy.” I ask this question to motivate anyone who will listen (and
Congress is certainly not in that category) to think about a different
question: What should we do if this war against “piracy” as we cur-
rently conceive of it cannot be won? What should we do if we know
that the future will be one where our kids, and their kids, will use a
digital network to access whatever content they want whenever they
want it? What should we do if we know that the future is one where
perfect control over the distribution of “copies” simply will not exist?

In that world, should we continue our ritual sacrifice of some
kid caught downloading content? Should we continue the expul-
sions from universities? The threat of multimillion-dollar civil judg-
ments? Should we increase the vigor with which we wage war
against these “terrorists”? Should we sacrifice ten or a hundred to a
federal prison (for their actions under current law are felonies), so
that others learn to stop what today they do with ever-increasing

In my view, the solution to an unwinnable war is not to wage
war more vigorously. At least when the war is not about survival,
the solution to an unwinnable war is to sue for peace, and then to
find ways to achieve without war the ends that the war sought.
Criminalizing an entire generation is too high a price to pay for
almost any end. It is certainly too high a price to pay for a copyright
system crafted more than a generation ago.

This war is especially pointless because there are peaceful means
to attain all of its objectives—or at least, all of the legitimate objec-
tives. Artists and authors need incentives to create. We can craft a
system that does exactly that without criminalizing our kids. The
last decade is filled with extraordinarily good work by some of the
very best scholars in America, mapping and sketching alternatives
to the existing system. These alternatives would achieve the same
ends that copyright seeks, without making felons of those who nat-
urally do what new technologies encourage them to do.

It is time we take seriously these alternatives. It is time we stop
wasting the resources of our federal courts, our police, and our uni-
versities to punish behavior that we need not punish. It is time we
stop developing tools that do nothing more than break the extraor-
dinary connectivity and efficiency of this network. It is time we call
a truce, and figure a better way. And a better way means redefining
the system of law we call copyright so that ordinary, normal behav-
ior is not called criminal.

Many will read this declaration and wonder just why I should be
allowed to teach law at a great American university. Do we respond
to high levels of rape by decriminalizing rape? Would tax evasion
best be solved by eliminating taxes? Should the fact of speeding
mean we should repeal the speed limit? Or put generally: Does the
fact of crime justify the repeal of criminal law?

Of course not. Rape is wrong and should be punished severely
whether or not people continue to rape. Tax evasion is evil and
should be punished much more severely than it is, whether or not
most people cheat. And speeding kills and should be regulated
much more effectively than it is now, even if most of us regularly
speed. Nothing I’m saying about the copyright war in particular
generalizes automatically to every other area of regulation. I am
talking specifically about one unwinnable war, and about alterna-
tives to that war that have the consequence of decriminalizing our
kids, and decriminalizing many of us too.

But I confess that I do believe that this way of thinking about the
copyright wars should affect how we think about other kinds of reg-
ulation. Tax evasion is wrong. But one way to avoid that wrong would
be a simpler, fairer tax system. Speeding is wrong. But one way to
avoid that wrong is to avoid fifty-five-mile-per-hour speed limits
on straight, rural, four-lane public highways. We should always be
thinking about how to moderate regulation in light of the likeli-
hood that the target of regulation will comply. It does no one any
good to regulate in ways that we know people will not obey.

We need, in other words, more humility about regulation. The
twentieth century changed us in many obvious ways. But the one way
we’re likely not to notice is the presumption the twentieth century
gave us that government regulation is plausibly successful. For most
of the history of modern government, the struggle was not about
what was good or bad; the struggle was about whether it was possible
to imagine government effecting any good through regulation. Fears
of inevitable corruption, in part at least, drove our framers to limit the
size of the federal government—not idealism about libertarianism.
Recognizing the uselessness of certain sorts of rules led governments
to avoid regulation in obvious areas, or to deregulate when they saw
their regulation failing. These are the historical expressions of regu-
latory humility, a habit of mind for most of human history.

We’ve forgotten these limits of humility. Wherever there is a
wrong, the first instinct of our government is to send in the legal
equivalent of the marines. We pass a law to ban a behavior, but
we rarely work through just how that law will change behavior.
Nor do we assess how corrosive it is if, the law notwithstanding,
the behavior remains the same, though now with the label “crimi-
nal.” If something is wrong, it gets a law, without us even working
through alternatives to exploding regulation.

If you’re skeptical, think about a simple example. Around the
time the Supreme Court heard arguments in the well-known peer-
to-peer file-sharing case MGM v. Grokster,4 my local public-radio
station aired a story about the case. The story happened to run on
a day when the radio station was also running its own fund-raising
drive. Just after the story about Grokster ended, the show shifted
to its call for public support. “More than 90 percent of people who
listen to public radio don’t contribute to its support,” the announcer
said. “That’s why we need you to contribute now.”

I had worked on a brief in the Grokster case, in which we
addressed the content industry’s claim that 91 percent of the con-
tent shared on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks was in violation
of copyright law. We had responded by reminding the Court that
in the earlier Sony Betamax case, in which the VCR was the tar-
get, the content industry had also estimated that 91 percent of VCR
usage was in violation of copyright laws. The industry was nothing
if not consistent.

But the contrast between the complaint in the Supreme Court
and the complaint of the announcer on public radio startled me.
Here were two examples of free riding: people downloading Brit-
ney Spears’s music without paying her and people listening to “All
Things Considered” without paying NPR. With one, we criminal-
ize the free riding. With the other, we don’t. Why? Do you think
it would be appropriate to arrest people who listen to NPR without
paying? I certainly don’t. And as you may wonder, do I think Brit-
ney Spears should be paid through voluntary pledges on a 1-800
number? No, again, I don’t.

My point in retelling this story is to get you to see something
that is otherwise too often obscure: there are many different ways in
which we tax to raise the revenues needed for public goods (as the
economist would call copyrighted works). We select among these
different ways the one that is best. The critical point I want this
book to make is that one factor we should consider when deciding
that is whether the way we select makes our kids criminals. That’s
not the only factor. But it is one that has plainly been missing from
Congress’s consideration about how best to deal with the impact of
digital technologies upon traditional copyright industries.


In early February 2007, Stephanie Lenz’s eighteen-month-old son,
Holden, started dancing. Pushing a walker across her kitchen
floor, Holden started moving to the distinctive beat of a song by
Prince (that’s the current name of the artist formerly known as
Prince), “Let’s Go Crazy.” Holden had heard the song a couple of
weeks before while the family watched the Super Bowl. The beat
had obviously stuck. So when he heard the song again, he did what
any sensible eighteen-month-old would do—he accepted Prince’s
invitation and went “crazy” to the beat, in the clumsy but insanely
cute way that any precocious eighteen-month-old would.

Holden’s mom, understandably, thought the scene hilarious.
She grabbed her camcorder and captured the dance digitally. For
twenty-nine seconds, she had the priceless image of Holden danc-
ing, with the barely discernible Prince playing on a radio some-
where in the background.

Lenz wanted her parents to see the film. But it’s a bit hard to
e-mail a 20-megabyte video file to anyone, including your rela-
tives. So she did what any sensible citizen of the twenty-first cen-
tury would do: she uploaded the file to YouTube and e-mailed her
relatives the link. They watched the video scores of times, no doubt
sharing the link with friends and colleagues at work. It was a per-
fect YouTube moment: a community of laughs around a homemade
video, readily shared with anyone who wanted to watch.

Sometime over the next four months, however, someone not a
friend of Stephanie Lenz also watched Holden dance. That some-
one worked for Universal Music Group. Universal either owns or
administers some of the copyrights of Prince. And Universal has a
long history of aggressively defending the copyrights of its authors.
In 1976, it was one of the lead plaintiffs suing Sony for the “pirate
technology” now known as the VCR. In 2000, it was one of about
ten companies suing Eric Corely and his magazine, 2600, for pub-
lishing a link to a site that contained code that could enable some-
one to play a DVD on Linux. And now, in 2007, Universal would
continue its crusade against copyright piracy by threatening Steph-
anie Lenz. It fired off a letter to YouTube demanding that it remove
the unauthorized performance of Prince’s music. YouTube, to avoid
liability itself, complied.

This sort of thing happens all the time today. Companies like
YouTube are deluged with demands to remove material from their
systems. No doubt a significant portion of those demands are fair
and justified. If you’re Viacom, funding a new television series with
high-priced ads, it is perfectly understandable that when a perfect
copy of the latest episode is made available on YouTube, you would
be keen to have it taken down. Copyright law gives Viacom that
power by giving it a quick and inexpensive way to get the YouTubes
of the world to help it protect its rights.

The Prince song on Lenz’s video, however, was something com-
pletely different. First, the quality of the recording was terrible. No
one would download Lenz’s video to avoid paying Prince for his
music. Likewise, neither Prince nor Universal was in the business
of selling the right to video-cam your baby dancing to their music.
There is no market in licensing music to amateur video. Thus,
there was no plausible way in which Prince or Universal was being
harmed by Stephanie Lenz’s sharing this video of her kid danc-
ing with her family, friends, and whoever else saw it. Some parents
might well be terrified by how deeply commercial culture had pen-
etrated the brain of their eighteen-month-old. Stephanie Lenz just
thought it cute.

Not cute, however, from Lenz’s perspective at least, was the
notice she received from YouTube that it was removing her
video. What had she done wrong? Lenz wondered. What possi-
ble rule—assuming, as she did, that the rules regulating culture
and her (what we call “copyright”) were sensible rules—could her
maternal gloating have broken? She pressed that question through
a number of channels until it found its way to the Electronic
Frontier Foundation (on whose board I sat until the beginning of

The EFF handles lots of cases like this. The lawyers thought
this case would quickly go away. They filed a counternotice, assert-
ing that no rights of Universal or Prince were violated, and that
Stephanie Lenz certainly had the right to show her baby dancing.
The response was routine. No one expected anything more would
come of it.

But something did. The lawyers at Universal were not going to
back down. There was a principle at stake here. Ms. Lenz was not
permitted to share this bit of captured culture. They would insist—
indeed, would threaten her with this claim directly—that sharing
this home movie was willful copyright infringement. Under the
laws of the United States, Ms. Lenz was risking a $150,000 fine for
sharing her home movie.

We’ll have plenty of time to consider the particulars of a copy-
right claim like this in the pages that follow. For now, put those
particulars aside. Instead, I want to you imagine the confer-
ence room at Universal where the decision was made to threaten
Stephanie Lenz with a federal lawsuit. Picture the meeting: four,
maybe more, participants. Most of them lawyers, billing hundreds
of dollars an hour. All of them wearing thousand-dollar suits, sit-
ting around looking serious, drinking coffee brewed by an assis-
tant, reading a memo drafted by a first-year associate about the
various rights that had been violated by the pirate, Stephanie
Lenz. After thirty minutes, maybe an hour, the executives come
to their solemn decision. A meeting that cost Universal $10,000?
$50,000? (when you count the value of the lawyers’ time, and the
time to prepare the legal materials); a meeting resolved to invoke
the laws of Congress against a mother merely giddy with love for
her eighteen-month-old.

Picture all that, and then ask yourself: How is it that sensible
people, people no doubt educated at some of the best universi-
ties and law schools in the country, would come to think it a sane
use of corporate resources to threaten the mother of a dancing
eighteen-month-old? What is it that allows these lawyers and
executives to take a case like this seriously, to believe there’s some
important social or corporate reason to deploy the federal scheme of
regulation called copyright to stop the spread of these images and
music? “Let’s Go Crazy”? Indeed! What has brought the Ameri-
can legal system to the point that such behavior by a leading cor-
poration is considered anything but “crazy”? Or to put it the other
way around, who have we become that such behavior seems sane
to anyone?

Near the center of London, in a courtyard named Mason’s Yard,
there is a modern-looking cement building called White Cube. In
a previous life, it was an electricity substation. Today it is an art

In late August 2007, I entered the gallery and walked to the base-
ment. A large black curtain separated the stairs from an exhibit.
When I passed through the curtain, I saw on one wall of the huge
black room twenty-five plasma displays, one set next to the other,
in portrait orientation. Each display was a window into a studio.
In each studio was a fan of John Lennon. Twenty-five fans—three
women, twenty-two men, fifteen wearing T-shirts (both men and
women), one wearing a tie (man). All twenty-five were singing the
vocal track, from the first song to the last, without pause, from John
Lennon’s first solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970).
The exhibit looped the video again and again, for eight hours a day,
six days a week, throughout the summer of 2007.

These fans were ordinary Brits. Very ordinary. None were
beautiful. None were very young. They had no makeup. They were
twenty-five Lennon fanatics, selected from over six hundred who
had applied to sing this tribute to their favorite artist.

London was not the only city with an exhibit like this. Three
related installations had been made in three different countries. In
Jamaica, Legend (A Portrait of Bob Marley) featured thirty fans sing-
ing Marley’s Legend album. In Berlin, King (A Portrait of Michael
Jackson) had sixteen fans singing the whole of Thriller. And in Italy,
thirty fans of Madonna gathered for Queen (A Portrait of Madonna),
a tribute to the queen of pop. Working Class Hero ( A Portrait of John
Lennon) was just the latest in the series. The young South African
artist who had created it, Candice Breitz, was considering making

I’m not one to be moved by John Lennon’s solo work. Yet as I
sat in that pitch-black room, watching these fans sing his music, I
was overwhelmed with emotion. Like a mother holding her baby
for the first time, or a boy reaching out to take his father’s hand, or
a daughter turning to kiss her father as her wedding begins, each of
these fans conveyed an extraordinary and contagious emotion. They
were not fantastic singers. Often someone would miss the timing or
forget the words. But you could see that this music and its creator
were among the most important things in these people’s lives. Who
knows why? Who knows what their particular associations were?
But it was clear that this album was just about the most important
creative work these fans knew. Their performance was a celebration
of this part of their lives. That was its point: not so much about Len-
non, but about the people whose lives Lennon had touched.

Throughout her career Breitz has focused upon the relation-
ship between mainstream culture—from blockbuster movies to pop
music—and the audience who experiences it. As she explained to me,

    the idea is to shift the focus away from those people who are usu-
    ally perceived as creators so as to give some space, some room, to
    those people who absorb cultural products—whether it’s music or
    movies or whatever the case may be. And to think a little bit about
    what happens once music or a movie has been distributed: how it
    may get absorbed into the lives into the very being of the people
    who listen to it or watch it.1

Each of us connects differently. The connection runs deep in
some; it skips across the surface in others. Sometimes it catches us
and pulls us along. Sometimes it changes us completely. Again,

    Even the most broadly distributed, most market-inflected music
    comes to have a very specific and local meaning for people accord-
    ing to where it is that they’re hearing it or at what moment in their
    life they’re hearing it. What goes hand in hand with the moment
    of reception is a dimension of personal translation.

This “reception,” she continued, “involves . . . interpretation or trans-
lation.” That act “is creative.” Active. Engaged. Yet, it’s easy for us
to miss the active in the mere watching. It’s rude to turn around
and watch people watch a movie. It’s a crime to try to film them
singing in the shower. We live in a world infused with commercial
culture, yet we rarely see how it touches us, and how we process it
as it touches us.

As Breitz explained this to me, I wondered about its source in
her. Where did it come from? I asked her. In part, it was African.

    In African and other oral cultures, this is how culture has tradi-
    tionally functioned. In the absence of written culture, stories and
    histories were shared communally between performers and their
    audiences, giving rise to version after version, each new version
    surpassing the last as it incorporated the contributions and feed-
    back of the audience, each new version layered with new details
    and twists as it was inflected through the collective. This was
    never thought of as copying or stealing or intellectual-property
    theft but accepted as the natural way in which culture evolves and
    develops and moves forward. As each new layer of interpretation
    was painted onto the story or the song, it was enriched rather than
    depleted by those layers.

But this reality is not unique to oral cultures. In Breitz’s view, it
is “how the artistic process works” generally.

    This process of making meaning may be more blatant in the
    practice of certain artists than it is in the practice of others. Art-
    ists who work with found footage, for example, blatantly reflect
    on the absorptive logic of the creative process. But I would argue
    that every work of art comes into being through a similar process,
    no matter how subtly. No artist works in a vacuum. Every artist
    reflects— consciously or not— on what has come before and what
    is happening parallel to his or her practice.

This understanding of culture, and the artist’s relationship to
culture, led directly to the particular work I was watching at White
Cube. As she described to me,

    these works are based on a pretty simple premise: there are
    enough images and representations of superstars and celebrities
    in the world. Rather than creating more images of people who
    are already overrepresented, rather than literally making another
    image of a Madonna or a John Lennon, I wanted to reflect on
    the other side of the equation, on what goes into the making of

    I realized I needed to turn the camera 180 degrees, away from
    those who are usually in the public eye—those who already have
    a strong voice and presence on the screen or stage—towards those
    on the other side of the screen or stage, the audience members who
    attend concerts, watch movies, and buy CDs.

    Towards those who are usually—incorrectly, in my opinion—
    conceived of as mere absorbers of culture rather than being recog-
    nized as having the potential to reflect culture creatively.

Prior to Working Class Hero, the similar installations had all
been well received. After seeing Legend, for example, Bob Marley’s
widow, Rita, decided to incorporate permanently a copy in the
inventory of the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, where she had
arranged an opening showing at the museum, inviting all thirty
performers and their families from across Jamaica to come to the
museum to celebrate its celebration of her husband.

But with the portrait of Lennon, the reception wasn’t quite so
warm. At White Cube’s request, Breitz had set out to secure per-
mission from the copyright holders of John Lennon/Plastic Ono
Band prior to the first installations of the work at nonprofit muse-
ums in Newcastle and Vienna. Breitz wrote Yoko Ono to secure
that permission. After a couple of months, she received a response
from one of Ms. Ono’s lawyers. “We are not able to grant the use
of Mr. Lennon’s image for your project,” the e-mail informed. But
Breitz didn’t want permission to use Lennon’s image. She wanted
permission to engage with twenty-five fans singing his music.
When Breitz responded with that correction, the lawyer informed
her that he had not in fact personally reviewed her proposal. He
was simply relaying the fact that Ms. Ono was not willing to grant
the rights requested. A major international curator who knew Yoko
and was a supporter of Breitz’s work intervened on Breitz’s behalf,
suggesting that, as he understood the situation, Breitz could in fact
have paid for the relevant copyrights and gone ahead with the proj-
ect, but that out of respect, she was seeking Ono’s permission and
understanding. Ms. Ono wanted to hear more, but she disagreed
with the curator about her freedom to make a cover without per-
mission. “Permission,” Ono insisted, “was vital, legally.”

The curator described the proposal again. Ono asked to see it
in writing. After reviewing it, her lawyers informed Breitz that she
could use John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band in her project, but:

    Please note, clearance for the use of the actual musical composi-
    tions must be secured from the relevant publishers.2

Relieved (however naively), Breitz then asked White Cube’s
lawyers to start the process of securing “clearance” from the copy-
right holders for the compositions. Three months later, the lawyers
representing Sony (holder of the rights to ten of the eleven songs on
the album) quoted a standard fee of approximately $45,000 for one
month’s exhibition. Sony knew this was too much but wanted to set
a baseline for the negotiations that would follow. They requested
that the artist let them know the largest sum that she could afford.
They wanted to see the project’s budget.

Time, however, was running short. The exhibit was scheduled
to open in Newcastle in a matter of weeks. After being pressed, the
lawyers agreed to permit the work to be shown at this nonprofit
institution without an agreement. They did the same for a non-
profit venue in Vienna three months later, but mentioned that Ms.
Ono’s lawyers wanted a formal agreement before any further exhi-
bitions could go ahead.

    A year after the request was originally made, it had still not
been resolved. At the time of this writing, more than two years
after the initial response, and after literally hundreds of hours of
the lawyers’, the museum executives’, and Breitz’s time, the rights
holders have still not come to a final agreement. No one seems to
have noticed that the value of the time spent dickering over these
rights far exceeded any possible licensing fee. Economics didn’t
matter. A principle was at stake. As Ms. Ono had put it, “permis-
sion was vital, legally” before the love of twenty-five fans for the
work of John Lennon could be explored publicly by another artist.

Gregg Gillis is a twenty-five-year-old biomedical engineer from
Pittsburgh. He is also one of the hottest new artists in an emerging
genre of music called “mash-up” or “remix.” Girl Talk is the name
of his one-man (and one-machine) band. That band has now pro-
duced three CDs. The best known, Night Ripper, was named one
of the year’s best by Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. In March 2007, his
local congressman, Democrat Michael Doyle, took to the floor of
the House to praise this “local guy made good” and his new form
of art.

“New” because Girl Talk is essentially a mix of many samples
drawn from many other artists. Night Ripper, for example, remixes
between 200 and 250 samples from 167 artists. “In one example,”
Doyle explained on the floor of the House, “[Girl Talk] blended
Elton John, Notorious B.I.G., and Destiny’s Child all in the span of
30 seconds.” Doyle was proud of this hometown wonder. He invited
his colleagues to “take a step back” to look at this new form of art.
“Maybe mash-ups,” Doyle speculated, “are a transformative new art
that expands the consumer’s experience and doesn’t compete with
what an artist has made available on iTunes or at the CD store.”

Doyle’s comments helped fuel a flurry of media attention to
Girl Talk. That, in turn, helped fuel some real anxiety among Girl
Talk’s distributors. For the defining feature of this mash-up genre
is that the samples are remixed without any permission from the
original artists. And if you ask any lawyer representing any label
in America, he or she would quickly Ono-ize: “Permission is vital,
legally.” Thus, as Gillis practices it, Girl Talk is a crime. Apple
pulled Night Ripper from the iTunes Music Store. eMusic had done
the same a few weeks before. Indeed, one CD factory had refused
even to press the CD.

Gillis had begun with music at the age of fifteen. Listening to
electronic experimental music on a local radio station, he “discov-
ered this world of people that could press buttons and make noise
on pedals and perform it live.” “It kind of blew my mind,” he told
me. At the age of sixteen he “formed a noise band—noise meaning
very avant-garde music” for the time.3

Over the years, “avant-garde” moved from analog to digital—
aka computers. Girl Talk the band was born in late 2000 on a
Toshiba originally purchased for college. Gillis loaded the machine
with audio tracks and loops. Then, using a program called Audio-
Mulch, he would order and remix the tracks to prepare for a perfor-
mance. I’ve seen Girl Talk perform live; his shows are as brilliant as
his recorded remixes.

It wasn’t long into the life of Girl Talk, however, that the shadow
of Law Talk began to grow. Gillis recognized that his form of cre-
ativity didn’t yet have the blessing of the law. Yet he told me, “I was
never that fearful. . . . I guess I was a little naive, but at the same
time, it was just the world I existed in where you see these things
every day. [And you] know you’re going to be selling such a small
number of albums that no one will probably ever take notice of it.”
There were of course famous cases where people did “take notice.”
Negativland, a band we’ll see more of later in this book, had had a
famous run-in with U2 and Casey Kasem after it remixed a record-
ing of Kasem introducing the band on American Top 40. Gillis
knew about this run-in. But as he explained to me in a way that
reminded me of the days when I too thought the law was simply
justice written nicely,

    I feel the same exact way now that I felt then. I think, just mor-
    ally, that the music wasn’t really hurting anyone. And there’s no
    way anyone was buying my CD instead of someone else’s [that I
    had sampled]. And . . . it clearly wasn’t affecting the market. This
    wasn’t something like a bootlegging case. I felt like if someone
    really had a problem with this then we could stop doing it. But I
    didn’t see why anyone should.

Why anyone “should” was a question I couldn’t answer. That
someone would was a prediction too obvious to make. The “prob-
lem” would be raised not directly, but indirectly; not by filing a
lawsuit against Girl Talk, but by calling up iTunes or another
distributor and asking questions that made the distributor stop
its distribution, and thus forcing this artist, and this art form, into
obscurity. The “problem” of Girl Talk would be solved by mak-
ing sure that any success of Girl Talk was limited. Keep it in Pitts-
burgh, and dampen the demand wherever you can, and maybe the
“problem” would go away.

Gillis agrees the problem is going away. But for a very different
reason. For the thing that Gillis does well, Gillis explained to me,
everyone will soon do. Everyone, at least, who is passionate about
music. Or, at least, everyone passionate about music and under the
age of thirty.

    We’re living in this remix culture. This appropriation time where
    any grade-school kid has a copy of Photoshop and can download
    a picture of George Bush and manipulate his face how they want
    and send it to their friends. And that’s just what they do. Well,
    more and more people have noticed a huge increase in the amount
    of people who just do remixes of songs. Every single Top 40 hit
    that comes on the radio, so many young kids are just grabbing it
    and doing a remix of it. The software is going to become more and
    more easy to use. It’s going to become more like Photoshop when
    it’s on every computer. Every single P. Diddy song that comes out,
    there’s going to be ten-year-old kids doing remixes and then put-
    ting them on the Internet.

“But why is this good?” I asked Gillis.

It’s good because it is, in essence, just free culture. Ideas impact
data, manipulated and treated and passed along. I think it’s just
great on a creative level that everyone is so involved with the music
that they like. . . . You don’t have to be a traditional musician. You
get a lot of raw ideas and stuff from people outside of the box who
haven’t taken guitar lessons their whole life. I just think it’s great
for music.

And, Gillis believes, it is also great for the record industry as
well: “From a financial perspective, this is how the music industry
can thrive in the future . . . this interactivity with the albums. Treat
it more like a game and less like a product.”

Gillis’s point in the end, however, was not about reasons. It was
about a practice. Or about the practice of this generation. “People
are going to be forced—lawyers and . . . older politicians —to face
this reality: that everyone is making this music and that most music
is derived from previous ideas. And that almost all pop music is
made from other people’s source material. And that it’s not a bad
thing. It doesn’t mean you can’t make original content.”

All it means—today, at least—is that you can’t make this con-
tent legally. “Permission is vital, legally,” even if today it is impos-
sible to obtain.

SilviaO is a successful Colombian artist. For a time she was a song-
writer and recording star, making CDs to be sold in the normal
channels of Colombian pop music. In the late 1990s, she suffered
a tragic personal loss, and took some time away from performing.
When she returned to creating music, a close friend and developer
for Adobe convinced her to try something different.

I saw her describe the experience outside a beautiful museum
near Bogotá, at the launch of Creative Commons Colombia. (We’ll
see more of Creative Commons later. Suffice it to say for now that the
nonprofit provides free copyright licenses to enable artists to mark
their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. These
licenses are then translated, or “ported,” into jurisdictions around
the world. When that porting is complete, the country “launches,”
making the new localized licenses available.) About a hundred
people, mainly artists and twentysomethings, were gathered in an
amphitheater next to the museum. SilviaO spoke in Spanish. A
translator sitting next to me carried her words into English.

She told a story of donating an a cappella track titled “Nada
Nada” (“Nothing Nothing”) to a site Creative Commons runs
called ccMixter. ccMixter was intended as a kind of Friendster
for music. People were asked to upload tracks. As those tracks got
remixed, the new tracks would keep a reference to the old. So you
could see, for example, that a certain track was made by remix-
ing two other tracks. And you could see that four other people had
remixed that track.

SilviaO’s track was a beautiful rendition of a song sung in Span-
ish, described on the ccMixter site as the story of “a girl not chang-
ing her ideas, dreams or way of life after engaging in a relationship.”
A few days after the track was uploaded, however, a famous mixter
citizen, fourstones, remixed it—cutting up the Spanish into totally
incomprehensible (but beautiful) gibberish, and retitling the mix
“Treatment for Mutilation.”

As she stood before those who had come to celebrate Creative
Commons Colombia and described this “mutilation,” I, the chair-
man of Creative Commons, began to sweat. I was certain she was
about to attack remix creativity. A remixer had totally destroyed
the meaning of her contribution. I was certain this was to become a
condemnation of the freedom that I had thought we were all there
to celebrate.

To my extraordinary surprise and obvious relief, however, Sil-
viaO had no condemnation to share. She instead described how
the experience had totally changed how she thought about creat-
ing music. Sure, the words were no longer meaningful. But the
sound had taken on new meaning. As she told me later, “the song
became more jazzy, and it opened the gate to understanding that
maybe it was going to be more to treat my voice as an instrument
and something completely independent from lyrics than I was used
to before.”4

Inspired by that remix, she wrote another track to be layered
onto the first. Since then, she has added song after song to the
ccMixter collection. Unlike Breitz’s work or Girl Talk, all these
remixes were legal. If “permission is vital, legally,” then with this
work, permission had already been given. The Creative Commons
licenses had shifted the copyright baseline through the voluntary
acts of copyright holders.

And for SilviaO, the act of creating had changed. Before, she sat
in a studio, crafting work that would be broadcast, one to many.
Now she was in a conversation with other artists, providing con-
tent they would add to, and adding content back. “I’m more talking
with the musicians right now,” she told me, “because I’m releas-
ing my work and I know for sure, for many of them, they don’t
understand not even the words I am saying. [But] my voice is just
another instrument, so all the options that they are playing with
are completely their own. So there is more freedom. . . . My voice,”
she explained, “was just a little bit—it was just a little part of the
huge process that is happening now with this kind of creation. I
was a little bit more free, because I didn’t know how they were

“I became,” she whispered, “a little bit more courageous.”

If I asked you to shut your eyes and think about “the copyright wars,”
your mind would not likely run to artists or creators like these.
Peer-to-peer file sharing is the enemy in the “copyright wars.” Kids
“stealing” stuff with a computer is the target. The war is not about
new forms of creativity, not about artists making new art. Congress
has not been pushed to criminalize Girl Talk.

But every war has its collateral damage. These creators are just
one type of collateral damage from this war. The extreme of regula-
tion that copyright law has become makes it difficult, and sometimes
impossible, for a wide range of creativity that any free society—if it
thought about it for just a second—would allow to exist, legally. In
a state of war, however, we can’t be lax. We can’t forgive infractions
that might at a different time not even be noticed. Think “eighty-
year-old grandma being manhandled by TSA agents,” and you’re
in the frame for this war as well.

Collateral damage is the focus of this book. I want to put a
spotlight on the stuff no one wants to kill—the most interesting,
the very best of what these new technologies make possible. If the
war simply ended tomorrow, what forms of creativity could we
expect? What good could we realize, and encourage, and learn

I then want to spotlight the damage we’re not thinking enough
about—the harm to a generation from rendering criminal what
comes naturally to them. What does it do to them? What do they
then do to us?

I answer these questions by drawing a map of the change in
what we could call cultures of creativity. That map begins at the
turn of the last century. It is painted with fears from then about
what our culture was becoming. Most of those fears proved correct.
But they help us understand why much of what we seem to fear
today is nothing to fear at all. We’re seeing a return of something
we were before. We should celebrate that return, and the prosper-
ity it promises. We should use it as a reason to reform the rules that
render criminal most of what your kids do with their computers.
Most of all, we should learn something from it—about us, and
about the nature of creativity.

                        PART ONE

                    CULTURES OF OUR PAST

On a humid day in June 1906, one of America’s favorite com-
posers climbed the steps of the Library of Congress to testify
about the status of copyright law in America. John Philip Sousa
was a critic of the then relatively lax United States copyright system.
He had come to Washington to ask that Congress “remedy a seri-
ous defect in the . . . law, which permits manufacturers and sellers of
phonograph records . . . to appropriate for their own profit the best
compositions of the American composer without paying a single
cent therefor”—a form of “piracy” as he called it.1

Sousa’s outrage is not hard to understand. Though he was a
famous conductor, some of Sousa’s income came from the copy-
rights he had secured in the work he had composed and arranged.
Those copyrights gave him an exclusive right to control the pub-
lic performance of his work; any reproduction of sheet music to
support that public performance; and any arrangements, or other
work, “derived” from his original work. This mix of protections
was crafted by Congress to reward artists for their creativity by cre-
ating incentives for artists to produce great new work.

The turn of the century, however, brought an explosion of
technologies for creating and distributing music that didn’t fit well
within this old model of protection. With these new technologies,
and for the first time in history, a musical composition could be
turned into a form that a machine could play—the player piano,
for example, or a phonograph. Once encoded, copies of this new
musical work could be duplicated at a very low cost. A new indus-
try of “mechanical music” thus began to spread across the country.
For the first time in human history, with a player piano or a pho-
nograph, ordinary citizens could access a wide range of music on
demand. This was a power only kings had had before. Now every-
one with an Edison or an Aeolian was a king.

The problem for composers, however, was that they didn’t share
in the wealth from this new form of access. Mechanical music may
have in one sense “copied” their work. But as most courts inter-
preted the Copyright Act, whatever “copy” these machines made
was not the sort of copy regulated by the law. This angered many
composers. Some, such as Sousa, resolved to do something about it.
His trip to Capitol Hill was just one part of his extensive (and ulti-
mately successful) campaign.

My interest in Sousa’s testimony, however, has little to do with
his (to us, today) obviously sensible plea. It is instead a point that
may have been obvious to him, then, but that has largely been for-
gotten by us, now. For as well as complaining about the “piracy” of
mechanical music, Sousa also complained about the cultural emp-
tiness that mechanical music would create. As he testified:

    When I was a boy . . . in front of every house in the summer eve-
    nings you would find young people together singing the songs of
    the day or the old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines
    going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal
    cords will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of
    man when he came from the ape.2

“We will not have a vocal cord left.”

John Philip Sousa was obviously not offering a prediction about
the evolution of the human voice box. He was describing how a
technology—“these infernal machines”—would change our rela-
tionship to culture. These “machines,” Sousa feared, would lead us
away from what elsewhere he praised as “amateur” culture. We
would become just consumers of culture, not also producers. We
would become practiced in selecting what we wanted to hear, but
not practiced in producing stuff for others to hear.

So why would one of America’s most prominent professional
musicians criticize the loss of amateur music?

Sousa’s fear was not that the quality of music would decline as
less was produced by amateurs and more by professionals. Instead,
his fear was that culture would become less democratic: not in the
sense that people would vote about what is, or is not, good culture,
but in a sense that MIT professor Eric von Hippel means when he
argues that innovation today is becoming more “democratized.”3 In
the world Sousa feared, fewer and fewer would have the access to
instruments, or the capacity, to create or add to the culture around
them; more and more would simply consume what had been
created elsewhere. Culture would become the product of an elite,
even if this elite, this cultural monarchy, was still beloved by the

Indeed, he believed this change was already happening. As he

    Last summer . . . I was in one of the biggest yacht harbors of the
    world, and I did not hear a voice the whole summer. Every yacht
    had a gramophone, a phonograph, an Aeolian, or something of the
    kind. They were playing Sousa marches, and that was all right, as
    to the artistic side of it, but they were not paying for them, and,
    furthermore, they were not helping the technical development of

This decline in participation, Sousa argued, would translate
into a decline in the spread of tools to create music:

    This wide love for the art springs from the singing school, secu-
    lar or sacred; from the village band, and from the study of those
    instruments that are nearest the people. There are more pia-
    nos, violins, guitars, mandolins, and banjos among the working
    classes of America than in all the rest of the world, and the pres-
    ence of these instruments in the homes has given employment
    to enormous numbers of teachers who have patiently taught the
    children and inculcated a love for music throughout the various

“And what is the result” of this loss of “amateurs”? Sousa asked.

    The child becomes indifferent to practice, for when music can be
    heard in the homes without the labor of study and close applica-
    tion, and without the slow process of acquiring a technique, it
    will be simply a question of time when the amateur disappears
    entirely. . . . [T]he tide of amateurism cannot but recede, until there
    will be left only the mechanical device and the professional

“The tide of amateurism cannot but recede”—a bad thing, this
professional believed, for music and for culture.

Sousa was romanticizing culture in a way that might remind the
student of American history of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson roman-
ticized the yeoman farmer.7 He would be sickened by the modern
corporate farm that has displaced his yeoman hero. But his repul-
sion would have little to do with the efficiency of food production,
or even the quality of the food produced. Instead, he would object
to the effect of this change on our democracy. Jefferson believed
that the ethic of a yeoman farmer—one practiced in the discipline
of creating according to an economy of discipline, as any farmer on
the edge of civilization in eighteenth-century America would—was
critical to democratic self-governance. Yeoman self-sufficiency was
thus not a virtue because it was an efficient way to make food. Yeo-
man self-sufficiency was a virtue because of what it did to the self,
and in turn, what it did to democratic society, the union of many
individual selves.

Sousa’s take on culture was similar. His fear was not that culture,
or the actual quality of the music produced in a culture, would be
less. His fear was that people would be less connected to, and hence
practiced in, creating that culture. Amateurism, to this professional,
was a virtue—not because it produced great music, but because it
produced a musical culture: a love for, and an appreciation of, the
music he re-created, a respect for the music he played, and hence a
connection to a democratic culture. If you want to respect Yo-Yo
Ma, try playing a cello. If you want to understand how great great
music is, try performing it with a collection of amateurs.

                    RW Culture Versus RO Culture

In the language of today’s computer geeks, we could call the culture
that Sousa celebrated a “Read/Write” (“RW”) culture:* in Sousa’s
world (a world he’d insist included all of humanity from the begin-
ning of human civilization), ordinary citizens “read” their culture
by listening to it or by reading representations of it (e.g., musical
scores). This reading, however, is not enough. Instead, they (or at
least the “young people of the day”) add to the culture they read
by creating and re-creating the culture around them. They do this
re-creating using the same tools the professional uses—the “pianos,
violins, guitars, mandolins, and banjos”—as well as tools given to
them by nature—“vocal cords.” Culture in this world is flat; it is
shared person to person.8 As MIT professor Henry Jenkins puts
it in his extraordinary book, Convergence Culture, “[T]he story of
American arts in the 19th century might be told in terms of the
mixing, matching, and merging of folk traditions taken from vari-
ous indigenous and immigrant populations.”9

Sousa’s fear was that this RW culture would disappear, be dis-
placed by—to continue the geek-speak metaphor—an increasingly
“Read/Only” (“RO”) culture: a culture less practiced in perfor-
mance, or amateur creativity, and more comfortable (think: couch)
with simple consumption. The fear was not absolute: no one feared
that all nonprofessional creativity would disappear. But certainly its

   * The analogy is to the permissions that might attach to a particular file on a computer.
   If the user has “RW” permissions, then he is allowed to both read the file and make
   changes to it. If he has “Read/Only” permissions, he is allowed only to read the file.

significance and place within ordinary society would change. RW
creativity would become less significant; RO culture, more.

As one reflects upon the history of culture in the twentieth cen-
tury, at least within what we call the “developed world,” it’s hard
not to conclude that Sousa was right. Never before in the history of
human culture had the production of culture been as profession-
alized. Never before had its production become as concentrated.
Never before had the “vocal cords” of ordinary citizens been as
effectively displaced, and displaced, as Sousa feared, by these
“infernal machines.” The twentieth century was the first time in
the history of human culture when popular culture had become
professionalized, and when the people were taught to defer to the

The “machines” that made this change possible worked their
magic through tokens of RO culture—recordings, or performances
captured in some tangible form, and then duplicated and sold by an
increasingly concentrated “recording” industry. At first, these tokens
were physical—player-piano rolls, then quickly phonographs. In
1903, “the Aeolian Company had more than 9,000 [player-piano]
roll titles in their catalog, adding 200 titles per month.”10 During
the 1910s, “perhaps 5% of players sold were reproducing pianos.” At
one point in the 1920s, a majority of the pianos made in America
had a player unit included.11

Phonographs shared a similar growth. In 1899, 151,000 phono-
graphs were produced in the United States.12 Fifteen years later,
that number had more than tripled (to approximately 500,000
units). Record sales in 1914 were more than 27 million.13 But for
most of the 1920s, sales stayed above 100 million copies.14 By the late
1920s, between 33 percent and 50 percent of all households had a
record player.15 Nineteen twenty-nine was the peak for record sales
in the United States16 before the Depression burst this and many
other cultural bubbles.

But as radio technology improved, physical tokens of RO cul-
ture faced competition from tokens that were more virtual—what
we call “broadcasts.” To compete, phonograph manufacturers cut
prices. “In 1925, Victor dropped the price of its $1.50 single-side
Red Seal records to 90 cents, and cut its $1.00 records to 65 cents.”17
But as Philip Meza describes, “the price cuts did not work, and sales
continued to fall. . . . In 1919, 2.2 million phonographs were sold. In
1922, fewer than 600,000. . . .”18

Competition drove the producers of physical tokens to produce
higher-quality tokens. That in turn drove the demand for higher-
quality radio—a demand that inspired Edwin Howard Armstrong
to invent, the FCC to allow, and RCA to deploy FM radio.19 Radio,
however, soon faced its own competition from a new form of broad-
cast—television. The cycle then continued.

The twentieth century was thus a time of a happy competition
among RO technologies. Each cycle produced a better technology;
each better technology was soon bested by something else. The
record faced competition from tapes and CDs; the radio, from tele-
vision and VCRs; VCRs, from DVDs and the Internet.

By the turn of the twenty-first century, this competition had
produced extraordinary access to a wide range of culture. Never
before had so much been available to so many. It also produced an
enormously valuable industry for the American economy and oth-
ers. In 2002, the publishing industry alone (excepting the Internet)
had revenues close to $250 billion.20 In the same year, the revenue
for broadcasting (again excepting the Internet) was almost $75 bil-
lion.21 The revenue to the motion-picture and sound-recording
industries was close to $80 billion.22 And according to the Motion
Picture Association of America,

    Core Copyright industries are responsible for an estimated 6%
    of the nation’s total GDP totaling $626 billion a year. Copyright
    industries had an annual employment growth rate of 3.19% per
    year—a rate more than double the annual employment growth
    rate achieved by the economy as a whole.23

RO culture had thus brought jobs to millions. It had built super-
stars who spoke powerfully to millions. And it had come to define
what most of us understood culture, or at least “popular culture,”
to be.

                      Limits in Regulation

Before RO culture carries us away, however, return for a moment
to Sousa. For there was a second aspect to the culture that Sousa
described that we should also notice here. This was the relation-
ship between culture and the particular form through which we
regulate culture—copyright law. It was about the limits on that

For his time, Sousa was a copyright extremist. He had come
to Washington to push for (what was perceived by many to be) a
radical increase in the reach of copyright. The push was opposed by
many in the business world and many antiregulation idealists.

Yet Sousa’s extremism still knew an important limit, a place
where copyright law would reach too far. That limit got revealed
midway through his testimony. As he testified Sousa was inter-
rupted by Congressman Frank Dunklee Currier, a Republican
from New Hampshire. After Sousa described the “young people
together singing the songs of the day and the old songs,” Currier

    Currier: Since the time you speak of, when they used to be
      singing in the streets . . . the law has been [changed] . . . to
      prohibit that. Is not that so?
    Sousa: No, sir; you could always do it.
    Currier: Any public performance is prohibited, is it not, by
      that law?
    Sousa: You would not call that a public performance.
    Currier: But any public performance is prohibited by the law
      of 1897?
    Sousa: Not that I know of at all. I have never known that it
      was unlawful to get together and sing.24

Though the record doesn’t indicate it, one imagines laughter fol-
lowed Sousa’s comment. And anyway, Currier was not being seri-
ous. He was not a copyright extremist. Indeed, quite the opposite.
Currier was an “intellectual property” skeptic, unconvinced of the
need for this government-backed monopoly to interfere with inven-
tions or the arts. The aim of his question was to embarrass Sousa
for Sousa’s (from Currier’s view) extremism.25 He wanted to suggest
the law had already gone too far and didn’t need to go any further.

The effort backfired. Sousa didn’t believe that every use of cul-
ture should be regulated. Indeed, he thought it ridiculous to imag-
ine a world where it was “unlawful to get together and sing.” That
part of culture (a critical part if amateur culture was to survive)
must be left unregulated, Sousa believed, even if another part of
culture (the part where commercial entities profited from creative
works) needed to be regulated more. Even for this extremist, copy-
right law had a limit.

Keep these two ideas in mind as we turn to the argument
that follows: one, the importance of “amateur” creativity, produc-
ing an RW culture; two, the importance of limits in the reach of
copyright’s regulation, leaving free from regulation this amateur

In the balance of this book, my hope is to revive these two
Sousarian sensibilities. As we look back at our history, the domi-
nance of the radically different culture (and the culture of regu-
lating culture) of the last forty years is likely to obscure the view
of a much longer tradition that lived before it. That much longer
tradition has value for us today. For the conditions that made its
best part possible are now returning. And ironically for Mr. Sousa,
they are returning precisely because of a new generation of (as pro-
fessional musicians today call them) “infernal machines.” These
new infernal machines, however, will enable an RW culture again.
And if permitted by the industries that now dominate the produc-
tion of culture (and that exercise enormous control over Congress,
which regulates that culture), they could also encourage an enor-
mous growth in economic opportunity for both the professional
and the amateur, and for all those who benefit from both forms of

                             CULTURES OF OUR FUTURE

The “copyright wars” have lead many to believe that the choice
we face is all or nothing. Either Hollywood will win or “the
Net” will win. Either we’re about to lose something important that
we’ve been, or we’re going to kill something valuable that we could
be. Whoever wins, the other must lose.

This simple framing creates a profound confusion. For there
need be no trade-off between the past and the future. Instead, all
the evidence promises an extraordinary synthesis of the past and
the present to create a phenomenally more prosperous future. This
future need not be either less RO or more RW: it could be both.
And much more interesting (to those focused on the economy, at
least), this future could see the emergence of a form of economic
enterprise that has been relatively rare in our past, but that prom-
ises extraordinary economic opportunity: what I call the “hybrid.”

In the chapters that follow, I want to map this future. I start
with what simply continues the twentieth century—a story of
how the Internet extends RO culture beyond the unavoidable
limits of twentieth-century technology. I then show just how the
same technologies that encourage RO culture could also encour-
age the revival of the RW creativity that Sousa celebrated. Finally,
I describe the most interesting change that I believe we’re going to
see—the “hybrid”—that will increasingly define the industries of
culture and innovation. All three changes, if allowed, will be valu-
able and important. All three should be encouraged.

                        RO, EXTENDED

There’s a part of culture that we simply consume. We listen to
music. We watch a movie. We read a book. With each, we’re not
expected to do much more than simply consume.* We might hum
along with the music. We might reenact a dance from a movie. Or
we might quote a passage from the book in a letter to a friend. But
in the main, this kind of culture is experienced through the act of
consumption. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end to that
consumption. Once we’ve finished it, we put the work away.

This is the stuff at the core of RO culture. And while of course
the stuff was not born with the “infernal machines” that Sousa
lamented (in our tradition it was Gutenberg who gave birth to the
most significant spread of tokens of RO culture), my focus for the
moment will be on the RO culture that Sousa did lament: the tokens
of RO culture that get processed and performed by machines, cap-
turing and spreading music, and the spoken word, and eventually,
images and film.

   * Of course, as Candice Breitz and many others argue, there’s nothing “simple” in con-
   suming, but put those complications aside for the moment.

For most of the twentieth century, these tokens were analog.
They all therefore shared certain limitations: first, any (consumer-
generated) copy was inferior to the original; and second, the tech-
nologies to enable a consumer to copy an RO token were extremely
rare. No doubt there were recording studios aplenty in Nashville
and Motown. But for the ordinary consumer, RO tokens were to be
played, not manipulated. And while they might legally be shared,
every lending meant at least a temporary loss for the lender. If you
borrowed my LPs, I didn’t have them. If you used my record player
to play Bach, I couldn’t listen to Mozart.

These are the inherent—we could say “natural”—limitations
of analog technology. From the consumer’s perspective, they were
bugs. No consumer ever bought a record player because he couldn’t
copy the records.

But from the perspective of the content industry, these limita-
tions in analog technology were not bugs. They were features.
They were aspects of the technology that made the content indus-
try possible. For this nature limited the opportunity for consumers
to compete with producers (by “sharing”). And its imperfections
drove demand for each new generation of technology. Record
companies thus sold bits of culture, embedded in vinyl records,
then in eight-track tapes, then in cassette tapes, and then in CDs.
With each new format, there was a wave of new demand (often
for the very same work). The same with film. Film companies
distributed films to theaters, and then films to videocassettes, and
then films to DVDs. The business model of both these distribu-
tors of RO culture depended upon controlling the distribution of
copies of culture. The nature of analog tokens of RO culture sup-
ported this business model by making it very difficult to do much

The law supported this business model. The law, for example,
forbade a consumer from making ten thousand copies of his favor-
ite LP to share with his friends.1 But it wasn’t really the law that
mattered most in stopping this form of “piracy.” It was the econom-
ics of making a copy in the world of analog technology. At least
among consumers, it was this nature of the LP that really limited
the consumer’s ability to be anything other than “a consumer.”

                     Nature Remade

Digital technology changed this “nature.” With the introduction of
digital tokens of RO culture and, more important, with the wide-
spread availability of technologies that could manipulate digital
tokens of RO culture, digital technology removed the constraints
that had bound culture to particular analog tokens of RO culture.
As I’ve described in a different context,2 we could say that while
the code of an LP record protected it from duplication, the code of
a digital copy of that record does not. The code of an analog video-
cassette effectively limited the number of times it could be played
(before the tape wore out, for example). The code of a digital copy
of that film does not. The “natural” constraints of the analog world
were abolished by the birth of digital technology. What before was
both impossible and illegal is now just illegal.

When the content industry recognized this change, it was ter-
rified. Digital tokens of RO culture would no longer conspire with
the content industry to protect that industry’s business model.
Unlike analog technologies and analog tokens of RO culture, digi-
tal technologies would instead conspire with the enemy—at least,
the enemy of this particular business model. By the mid-1990s, the
industry came to fully recognize this enemy. By the late 1990s, it
had hatched a strategy to fight it.

And thus were born the copyright wars. In September 1995, the
content industry, working with the U.S. Department of Commerce,
began to map a strategy for protecting a business model from digital
technologies.3 In 1997 and 1998, that strategy was implemented in a
series of new laws designed to extend the life of copyrighted work,4
strengthen the criminal penalties for copyright infringement,5 and
punish the use of technologies that tried to circumvent digital locks
placed on digital content.6

This legislation was soon complemented by aggressive litigation.
First the lawyers targeted commercial entities like and
Napster.7 Then they targeted ordinary citizens, charging them with
downloading music or enabling others to do the same.8 The federal
system was flooded with claims based upon federal copyright law.
According to one site that monitors lawsuits filed by the Recording
Industry Association of America, as of June 2006, the RIAA had
sued 17,587 people, including a twelve-year-old girl and a dead grand-
mother.9 A year later, the RIAA had sent around 2,500 prelitigation
letters to twenty-three more universities across the nation, threaten-
ing action based upon students’ allegedly illegal downloading of copy-
righted content.10 These aggressive legal threats have coincided with a
250 percent increase in copyright litigation in the federal courts in six
years.11 A similar pattern has spread overseas. The International Fed-
eration of the Phonographic Industry (European cousin to the RIAA)
reported suing more than ten thousand people in eighteen countries
by the end of 2006. It promised many more suits in 2007.12

By the turn of the century, the industry’s view had become
simple and dire: As never before (at least since the last time),13 the
content industry was threatened by new technologies. And unless
the government launched a massive effort to regulate the use and
spread of these technologies, the rise of digital technologies would
mean the fall of much of the content industry.

The numbers then were at least consistent with the con-
tent industry’s argument: By the first half of 2002, world sales of
recorded music had fallen by 9.2 percent in dollar value, and unit
shipments were down 11.2 percent. Worldwide, the recording in-
dustry suffered its third straight year of declining sales. Sony told
investors it expected music revenues to fall an additional 13–15 per-
cent in 2003: “In the United States, sales had also declined steadily
over the previous three years, with sales of recorded music falling
8.2 percent in dollar value and 11.2 percent in unit shipments.”14
The labels blamed “piracy” for “an estimated $5 billion loss in
2002” alone.15 More recent statistics are, if anything, worse.16

Most in the industry—at least circa 2002—believed that
“piracy” was unavoidable given the “nature” of digital technologies.
Most thus believed the industry faced a choice: drive digital to the
periphery and save the industry, or allow it to become mainstream,
and watch the industry fail.

                    Re-remaking Nature

Then Steve Jobs taught them differently. For at the height of the
frenzy of this war against “piracy,” Jobs demonstrated in prac-
tice what many had been arguing in theory: that the only nature
of digital technology is that it conforms to how it is coded. The
technologies of the Internet were originally coded in a way that
enabled free, and perfect, copies, that nature could be changed by
a different code, with different permissions built in. Thus, digital
tokens of RO culture could be recoded with at least enough control
to restore a market in their distribution. That market could, Jobs
demonstrated, compete effectively with the “free” distribution of
the Internet.

The iTunes Music Store was the proof. Launched in 2003, more
than 1 billion songs were downloaded within three years, 2.5 billion
within four.17 And while iTunes music was digital, iTunes tokens of
digital culture contained a technology to limit their (re)distribution.
Code (called FairPlay, a kind of Digital Rights Management, or
DRM technology) was used to remake the code of digital tokens of
RO culture. This remade code was enough to get a reluctant con-
tent industry to play along.

Apple’s iTunes wasn’t the first to embed DRM in content.18 It was
just the smartest. Jobs understood that the record companies would
demand some control. The success of iTunes (and more important,
of the iPod conveniently tied to it) came from the fact that “some
control” could be less than “perfect control.” You couldn’t eas-
ily spread iTunes content to everyone on the Web—though if you
hunted around a bit on the Net, you’d find all the code you could
want to liberate iTunes. DRM was just a speed bump: it slowed ille-
gal use just enough to get the labels to buy in.

I’m not saying it was Jobs’s genius alone that brought the content
industry around. An important legal lever was being deployed at
the same time in the Napster case. Recall that the record compa-
nies had sued Napster because of the “piracy” it enabled. Napster
had countersued the record labels, charging that they had an agree-
ment among themselves not to sell content to the digital platform.19
The labels needed cover from this charge, and an experiment with
an operating system holding no more than 5 percent of the market
seemed safe enough. Thus was iTunes born.

But whatever the motivation, or the mix of motivations, iTunes’
success supported the idea that a wide range of content might be
sold digitally on the same model that defined the content industry
of the twentieth century: by metering the number of copies sold.
iTunes quickly expanded its offerings to books, then music vid-
eos and TV shows, and, finally, movies. Others followed a similar
path—offering different models for selling culture, but all still sell-
ing culture nonetheless. eMusic convinced independent labels to sell
downloads without any DRM. Rhapsody sold DRM’d downloads
in a subscription model. The key with each successful example
was to find a balance between access and control that would sat-
isfy both the consumers and the creators. This mix of models soon
convinced a skeptical industry that RO culture had a twenty-first-
century future. And soon into the century, there was a revival of
investment to find ways to better spread and exploit an RO market
in a digital age.

The potential is not hard to envision; the businesses are just
beginning to emerge now. If the twentieth century made culture
generally accessible, the twenty-first will make it universally accessi-
ble. As the cost of inventory drops, the mix of inventory increases—
the lesson of the Long Tail, which we’ll consider more in chapter
6. As the mix increases, the diversity of culture that can flourish in
the digital age grows. Think of all the books in the Library of Con-
gress. Now imagine the same diversity of music, video, and images.
And then imagine all of it accessible, in an instant, by anyone, any-
where. No doubt there are lots of hurdles to overcome to get to this
world. But the hurdles are not technical. As we’ll see in chapter
9, they are just regulatory. And if these regulatory burdens can be
reduced, a new industry of RO culture can flourish. A hundred
years from now, if it is allowed to flourish, we will see its relation-
ship to the twentieth century as we see the relationship between the
Boeing 777 and the work of the Wright brothers or Alberto Santos-
Dumont. This is the extraordinary potential for RO culture in a
digital age.

                          Recoding Us

As these businesses grow, they change not only business. They also
change us. They change how we think about access to culture.
They change what we take for granted.

For example: during the twentieth century, our access to televi-
sion and movies was different from our access to books. With tele-
vision and movies, the viewer had to conform his schedule to the
schedule of the distributor. So much was required by the technol-
ogy; so much came to seem natural. “Channels” were tools to chan-
nel people into watching one mix of content rather than another. A
smart scheduler tried to keep an audience by varying the mix so as
to prevent the “viewer” from wandering to another channel.

During the same period, however, books were accessed dif-
ferently. With books, the “natural” expectation (in the twentieth
century at least) was that the content was accessible on our sched-
ule. When we walked into a library, we expected to get what we
wanted, then. If the library didn’t have it, we expected it to get what
we wanted relatively quickly through interlibrary loan. If a librar-
ian had told you as you entered the library, “I’m sorry, in the after-
noon we offer only nonfiction. If you’d like to read some fiction,
come back after five p.m.,” you would have been incensed. The idea
that the library gets to say when and what I read is outrageous. Or
put differently, it would have been considered outrageous for any
library or bookstore or publisher to exercise the same control over
access to books that television stations and film distributors exer-
cised over film and video.

In the twenty-first century, television and movies will be book-
i-fied. Or again, our expectations about how we should be able to
access video content will be the same as the expectations we have
today about access to books. The idea that you would conform
your schedule to a distributor’s will seem increasingly ridiculous.
The idea that you would have to wait till “prime time” to watch
prime television will seem just fascist. Freedom will mean freedom
to choose to watch what you want when you want, just as freedom
to read means the freedom to read what you want when you want.
In both cases, not necessarily for free. But in both cases, according to
your schedule, not the schedule of someone else.

We can see this most clearly in our kids, who think it “just
dumb” that an episode of a favorite TV series is not available when-
ever they want to see it. And even older sorts begin to understand
this sense, as the DVRs like ReplayTV and TiVo become increas-
ingly common. More and more, even to old folks like me, it seems
astonishing to remember a time when to watch a television show,
you had to synchronize your schedule to the schedule of the broad-
caster. Absurd that if you missed an episode, that was it. There was
no chance—at least that season—for a repeat.

The expectation of access on demand builds slowly, and it builds
differently across generations. But at a certain point, perfect access
(meaning the ability to get whatever you want whenever you want it)
will seem obvious. And when it seems obvious, anything that resists
that expectation will seem ridiculous. Ridiculous, in turn, makes
many of us willing to break the rules that restrict access. Even the
good become pirates in a world where the rules seem absurd.

I saw this dynamic in myself with the 2007 Academy Awards.
For weird and accidental reasons (meaning, I don’t hang out with
movie stars), I had two friends nominated for an Oscar in 2007. I
was thus desperate to watch the awards. But that year, I was on sab-
batical in Germany, and not desperate enough to get up at 3 a.m.
to watch hours of Hollywood self-promotion. So I programmed a
VCR to record the show, and went to bed expecting to awaken and
watch the results.

I’m not a technical genius, but I’m also not an idiot. Nonetheless,
as seems always to be the case, the VCR didn’t record. So though I
could read that both of my friends had indeed won Oscars, I was
extremely disappointed that I couldn’t watch them win.

My first reaction was to turn to the Web site of the Academy
Awards. The site had fancy advertisements that changed with every
click you made, and tons of content. They must, I thought, have
video of the awards ceremony available to be streamed. It’s 2007, I
thought. And the Academy Awards ceremony is a wasting asset:
while many will care about the program in February 2007, almost
no one will care in March.

But the site didn’t have the actual ceremony available for free (or
“free,” since all content on the site was run with ads surrounding it)
or even to purchase. So I turned to iTunes, willing to pay whatever
it would charge to download the awards ceremony. But again, no
luck. iTunes didn’t have it. I then extended my search to a number
of other obvious places where the program might be for sale. Yet
again, no luck.

So then I did something I just don’t do—I went to YouTube
to see who might have at least clips that might show my friends
accepting their awards. Within five minutes, I had found clips with
both friends, which I watched with utter joy.

Many people did the same as I (though I take it not for the same
reason). And many took those clips and blogged them—adding
commentary, or criticism, or praise for the works celebrated at the
awards. I did too, adding links to the YouTube clips on my blog in
an entry the next day bragging about my Oscar-winning friends.
But then I read about legal action being initiated against bloggers
and YouTube users who had distributed parts of the awards. And
while, as a lawyer, I understood precisely the claim the content
owners had, as a citizen of the twenty-first century, I was still aston-
ished. Though this instinct can’t be justified as a matter of (at least
today’s) law, it is the essence of practical reason in the digital age: if
you don’t want your stuff stolen, make it easily available. YouTube
is a picture of unmet demand. And indeed, when I’ve tried to find
clips of important breaking news on YouTube, the only times I’ve
failed have been when the content provider has made the same con-
tent available on its own site. Access is the mantra of the YouTube
generation. Not necessarily free access. Access.

Digital technologies will thus shift the expectations surround-
ing access. Those changes will change other markets as well. Think
of the iPod—perfectly integrating all forms of RO culture into a
single device. That integration will increasingly lead us to see the
device not as music player, or video player, but as a universal access
point, facilitating simple access to whatever we want whenever we
want. Many devices will compete to become this device. And that
competition is certain to produce an extraordinarily efficient tool
to facilitate, and meter, and police our access to a wide range of

This change, in turn, will change other markets as well. Think
about a hotel room: at high-quality hotels, there is now fierce
competition to provide extremely high-quality televisions. Why is
beyond me. What chance is there that in the thirty minutes I have
before I go to sleep I will find something just starting on the 150
channels the hotel provides that I actually want to watch? From
my perspective, at least, this $2,000 flat-screen television is a useless
suck of space in a hotel room.

But as the universal access devices I’ve described get perfected,
the same competition that drives hotels to spend thousands to give
me beautiful access to the shopping channel will drive them to pro-
vide a simple way to connect my access device to their projector.
Count on a future of simple docking devices that amplify or project
content accessed through an iPod-like device. Hotels (and restau-
rants, airplanes, and bars) will then focus on supplying great infra-
structure. The iUser brings the content.

Users will thus demand access at any time, to everything (think:
Library of Congress). And technologies will develop to provide or
meter or police that access (think: the iPod, 2020). But then which
of these three models for access will it be? Will these devices simply
provide access, either by simply holding the content, or by enabling
the user to tune into a particular channel? Or like a jukebox, will
they meter access, deducting a fee for every download or play? Or
like a soldier at a military base, will they monitor the content being
accessed, and block access without the proper credentials?

The easy, and to some degree true, answer is that they will do
all three. But the interesting part is how significant the first of those
three will be, and how insignificant the third. My sense is that digi-
tal technology will enable market support for a much wider range
of “free” content than anyone expects now (where “free” simply
means without charge); and digital technologies will continue to
resist models that depend upon the heavy policing by its owners
to protect against “unauthorized use.” The quick disappearance of
DRM for music is evidence of the latter point.20 I, however, want to
focus here on the former.

The model for commercial broadcasting in the twentieth cen-
tury was ad-supported “free” content. The limitations of the tech-
nology of the twentieth century restricted the ways in which ads
might support free content. Programs were interrupted. Ads that
roughly matched the demographic of the program’s audience were
broadcast. In a world of relatively few channels, those ads had suf-
ficient penetration to make them pay (both the networks and the

The limits in that technology are obvious: The advertiser has
to broadcast to a wide range of people; the ability to target ads is
relatively weak. The advertiser can’t really know who saw the ad
or what they did when they saw it. And the advertiser is constantly
aware that his message is viewed as an intrusion. When ads came
every thirty minutes or so, for many, they were a welcome break.
But when 25 percent of broadcasting time is advertisement, they are
a perpetual annoyance. (Indeed, at this frequency, you can begin
to understand why there’s a market to buy “free” TV: if eighteen
minutes of every hour is advertisements, then even if you value your
time at the minimum wage, it would pay to spend $1.99 to avoid
watching the commercials.)

But just as the limitations of analog RO culture were eliminated
by digital technologies, so too the limitations of twentieth-century
advertising can be eliminated by twenty-first-century digital tech-
nology. And as the lessons of this change get spread, content pro-
viders will increasingly recognize that free access pays. Free access
is a means to gather extremely valuable data about the viewer. That
data can translate into much more effective advertising techniques.

The point is obvious when you think about Amazon. Amazon
knows me intimately because it watches me more carefully than
does any thing or person in the world. No one could pick a bet-
ter list of things I’m likely to want to buy. That’s because Amazon
sees what I buy. It learns from the patterns of other customers what
the sort who buys as I do is likely to want to buy next. It has built
a thick profile of my preferences. And I’m very happy to listen to it
when it suggests something I might be interested in.

So imagine a network with the same data about you. (I know,
privacy alarms are going off, and that’s an important issue of course,
but it’s not the issue for this book.) 21 Imagine that by watching all
the YouTube clips you browsed through or the shows you actu-
ally paused to watch, the network began to build a profile of your
preferences as rich as Amazon’s. And as it developed this profile,
this network could now market more effectively than any network
today. Access is what produces this value. Limiting access limits it.

This third point will be recognized soon, and not because
dweeby professors write about it. That’s the great thing about mar-
kets: there’s never a need to lecture a competitive market. Mar-
kets are driven to find value through competition with others. No
doubt, every age will be marked with battles waged by the previ-
ous generation’s giants. But the giants always fall to a better way
of making money. And the RO culture that digital technologies
will support will provide lots of new ways for content producers
to make money. “As if by an invisible hand,” this market will radi-
cally change the nature of access to culture in the next ten years. As
a result, our children will be unable to understand a world where
Thursday at 10 p.m. was more significant in cultural terms than
Friday at 5 a.m.

By invoking Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” I don’t mean to
say that policy makers have nothing to worry about here. Smith’s
Wealth of Nations teaches us about the phenomenal power of mar-
kets to adjust. But these markets adjust, as Yochai Benkler’s The
Wealth of Networks powerfully teaches, in light of the baseline
allocation of rights. Policy makers must assure that rights are not
allocated in a way that distorts or weakens competition. A costly
overlay of spectrum rights, for example, or an inefficient market of
copyrights, can stifle competition and drive markets to unnecessary
concentration. These factors must be regulated by policy makers.
They will not be “solved” by an invisible hand.

But for my purposes here, the most important policy mistake is
one that stifles the Sousarian instinct: a policy driven by the view
that the only way to protect RO culture is to render RW culture
illegal. That choice is a false choice. In the next chapter, I want to
sketch a future for RW culture that might motivate us to see just
why we should avoid this false choice.

                           RW, REVIVED

One of my closest (if most complicated) friends at college was an
English major. He was also a brilliant writer. Indeed, in every
class in which writing was the measure, he did as well as one pos-
sibly could. In every other class, he, well, didn’t.

Ben’s writing had a certain style. Were it music, we’d call it
sampling. Were it painting, it would be called collage. Were it digi-
tal, we’d call it remix. Every paragraph was constructed through
quotes. The essay might be about Hemingway or Proust. But he
built the argument by clipping quotes from the authors he was dis-
cussing. Their words made his argument.

And he was rewarded for it. Indeed, in the circles for which he
was writing, the talent and care that his style evinced were a mea-
sure of his understanding. He succeeded not simply by stringing
quotes together. He succeeded because the salience of the quotes,
in context, made a point that his words alone would not. And his
selection demonstrated knowledge beyond the message of the text.
Only the most careful reader could construct from the text he read
another text that explained it. Ben’s writing showed he was an
insanely careful reader. His intensely careful reading made him a
beautiful writer.

Ben’s style is rewarded not just in English seminars. It is the
essence of good writing in the law. A great brief seems to say noth-
ing on its own. Everything is drawn from cases that went before,
presented as if the argument now presented is in fact nothing new.
Here again, the words of others are used to make a point the others
didn’t directly make. Old cases are remixed. The remix is meant to
do something new. (Appropriately enough, Ben is now a lawyer.)

In both instances, of course, citation is required. But the cite
is always sufficient payment. And no one who writes for a living
actually believes that any permission beyond that simple payment
should ever be required. Had Ben written the estate of Ernest
Hemingway to ask for permission to quote For Whom the Bell Tolls
in his college essays, lawyers at the estate would have been annoyed
more than anything else. What weirdo, they would have wondered,
thinks you need permission to quote in an essay?

So here’s the question I want you to focus on as we begin this
chapter: Why is it “weird” to think that you need permission to
quote? Why would (or should) we be “outraged” if the law required
us to ask Al Gore for permission when we wanted to include a
quote from his book The Assault on Reason in an essay? Why is an
author annoyed (rather than honored) when a high school student
calls to ask for permission to quote?

The answer, I suggest, has lots to do with the “nature” of writ-
ing. Writing, in the traditional sense of words placed on paper, is
the ultimate form of democratic creativity, where, again, “demo-
cratic” doesn’t mean people vote, but instead means that everyone
within a society has access to the means to write. We teach everyone
to write—in theory, if not in practice. We understand quoting is an
essential part of that writing. It would be impossible to construct
and support that practice if permission were required every time
a quote was made. The freedom to quote, and to build upon, the
words of others is taken for granted by everyone who writes. Or
put differently, the freedom that Ben took for granted is perfectly
natural in a world where everyone can write.

                  Writing Beyond Words

Words, obviously, are not the only form of expression that can be
remixed in Ben’s way. If we can quote text from Hemingway’s For
Whom the Bell Tolls in an essay, we can quote a section from Sam
Wood’s film of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls in a film.
Or if we can quote lyrics from a Bob Dylan song in a piece about
Vietnam, we can quote a recording of Bob Dylan singing those lyr-
ics in a video about that war. The act is the same; only the source is
different. And the measures of fairness could also be the same: Is it
really just a quote? Is it properly attributed? And so on.

Yet, however similar these acts of quoting may be, the norms
governing them today are very different. Though I’ve not yet found
anyone who can quite express why, any qualified Hollywood law-
yer would tell you there’s a fundamental difference between quot-
ing Hemingway and quoting Sam Wood’s version of Hemingway.
The same with music: in an opinion by perhaps one of the twenti-
eth century’s worst federal judges, Judge Kevin Thomas Duffy, the
court issued “stern” sanctions against rap artists who had sampled
another musical recording. Wrote the judge,

    “Thou shalt not steal” has been an admonition followed since the
    dawn of civilization. Unfortunately, in the modern world of busi-
    ness this admonition is not always followed. Indeed, the defen-
    dants in this action for copyright infringement would have this
    court believe that stealing is rampant in the music business and,
    for that reason, their conduct here should be excused. The con-
    duct of the defendants herein, however, violates not only the Sev-
    enth Commandment, but also the copyright laws of this country.1

Whether justified or not, the norms governing these forms of
expression are far more restrictive than the norms governing text.
They admit none of the freedoms that any writer takes for granted
when writing a college essay, or even an essay for the New Yorker.


A complete answer to that question is beyond me, and therefore
us, here. But we can make a start. There are obvious differences
in these forms of expression. The most salient for our purposes is
the democratic difference, historically, in these kinds of “writing.”
While writing with text is the stuff that everyone is taught to do,
filmmaking and record making were, for most of the twentieth
century, the stuff that professionals did. That meant it was easier to
imagine a regime that required permission to quote with film and
music. Such a regime was at least feasible, even if inefficient.

But what happens when writing with film (or music, or images,
or every other form of “professional speech” from the twentieth
century) becomes as democratic as writing with text? As Negativ-
land’s Don Joyce described to me, what happens when technology
“democratiz[es] the technique and the attitude and the method [of
creating] in a way that we haven’t known before. . . . [I]n terms of
collage, [what happens when] anybody can now be an artist”?2

What norms (and then law) will govern this kind of creativ-
ity? Should the norms we all take for granted from writing be
applied to video? And music? Or should the norms from film be
applied to text? Put differently: Should the “ask permission” norms
be extended from film and music to text? Or should the norms
of “quote freely, with attribution” spread from text to music and

At this point, some will resist the way I’ve carved up the choices.
They will insist that the distinction is not between text on the one
hand and film/music/images on the other. Instead, the distinction
is between commercial or public presentations of text/film/music/
images on the one hand, and private or noncommercial use of text/
film/music/images on the other. No one expects my friend Ben
to ask the Hemingway estate for permission to quote in a college
essay, because no one is publishing (yet, at least) Ben’s college essays.
And in the same way, no one would expect Disney, for example, to
have any problem with a father taking a clip from Superman and
including it in a home movie, or with kids at a kindergarten paint-
ing Mickey Mouse on a wall.

Yet however sensible that distinction might seem, it is in fact not
how the rules are being enforced just now. Again, Ben’s freedom
with text is the same whether it is a college essay or an article in
the New Yorker (save perhaps if he’s writing about poetry). And in
fact, Disney has complained about kids at a kindergarten painting
Mickey on a wall.3 And in a setup by J. D. Lasica, every major stu-
dio except one insisted that a father has no right to include a clip of
a major film in a home movie—even if that movie is never shown
to anyone except the family—without paying thousands of dollars
to do so.4

However sensible, the freedom to quote is not universal in the
noncommercial sphere. Instead, those in thousand-dollar suits typi-
cally insist that “permission is vital, legally.”

Nor do I believe the freedom to quote should reach universally
only in the noncommercial sphere. In my view, it should reach
much broader than that. But before I can hope to make that norma-
tive argument stick, we should think more carefully about why this
right to quote—or as I will call it, to remix—is a critical expression
of creative freedom that in a broad range of contexts, no free society
should restrict.

Remix is an essential act of RW creativity. It is the expression
of a freedom to take “the songs of the day or the old songs” and
create with them. In Sousa’s time, the creativity was performance.
The selection and arrangement expressed the creative ability of the
singers. In our time, the creativity reaches far beyond performance
alone. But in both contexts, the critical point to recognize is that the
RW creativity does not compete with or weaken the market for the
creative work that gets remixed. These markets are complemen-
tary, not competitive.

That fact alone, of course, does not show that both markets
shouldn’t be regulated (that is, governed by rules of copyright). But
as we’ll see in the next part of the book, there are important reasons
why we should limit the regulation of copyright in the contexts in
which RW creativity is likely to flourish most. These reasons reflect
more than the profit of one, albeit important, industry; instead,
they reflect upon a capacity for a generation to speak.

I start with a form of RW culture that is closest to our tradition
of remixing texts. From that beginning, I will build to the more
significant forms of remix now emerging. In the end, my aim is to
draw all these forms together to point to a kind of speech that will
seem natural and familiar. And a kind of freedom that will feel

                        Remixed: Text

There is a thriving RW culture for texts on the Net just now. Its
scope and reach and, most important, sophistication are far beyond
what anyone imagined at the Internet’s birth. Through technologies
not even conceived of when this system began, this RW culture for
texts has built an ecology of content and an economy of reputation.
There is a system now that makes an extraordinary range of ini-
tially unfiltered content understandable, and that helps the reader
recognize what he should trust, and what he should question.

We can describe this system in three layers. The first is the writ-
ing itself. This has evolved through two different lives. The first of
these is obscure to many; the second is the ubiquitous “blog.”

The first was something called Usenet. In 1979, two computer
scientists at Duke, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, invented a distrib-
uted messaging system that enabled messages to be passed cheaply
among thousands of computers worldwide. This was Usenet. Some-
times these messages were announcementy; sometimes they were
simply informational. But soon they became the location of increas-
ingly interactive RW culture. As individuals realized they could
simply hit a single button and post a comment or reply to thousands
of computers worldwide, the temptation to speak could not be
resisted. Usenet grew quickly, and passion around it grew quickly
as well.

In 1994, a couple of lawyers changed all this. The firm Canter &
Siegel posted the first cross-group commercial message—aka
spam—advertising its services. Thousands responded in anger,
flaming the lawyers to get them to stop. But many others quickly
copied Canter & Siegel. Other such scum quickly followed. Usenet
became less and less a place where conversation could happen, and
more and more a ghetto for gambling ads and other such scams
(see also your e-mail in-box).5

Just about the time that Usenet was fading, the World Wide
Web was rising. The Web’s inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, was keen
that the Web be a RW medium—what Benkler calls “the writ-
able Web.”6 He pushed people developing tools to implement Web
protocols to design their tools in a way that would encourage both
reading and writing.7 At first, this effort failed. The real drive for
the Web, its developers thought, would be businesses and other
organizations that would want to publish content to the world. RO,
not RW.

But as tools to simplify HTML coding matured, Berners-Lee’s
idea of a RW Internet became a reality. Web-logs, or blogs, soon
started to proliferate at an explosive rate. In March 2003, the best-
known service for tracking blogs, Technorati, found just 100,000
blogs. Six months later, that number had grown to 1 million. A year
later, more than 4 million were listed.8 Today there are more than
100 million blogs worldwide, with more than 15 added in the time
it took you to read this sentence. According to Technorati, Japa-
nese is now the number one blogging language. And Farsi has just
entered the top ten.9

When blogs began (and you can still see these early blogs using
Brewster Kahle’s “Wayback machine” at, while they
expressed RW creativity (since the norm for this form of writing
encouraged heavy linking and citation), their RW character was
limited. Many were little more than a public diary: people (and
some very weird people) posting their thoughts into an apparently
empty void. Most were commentary on other public events. So the
writing itself was RW, but the writing was experienced by an audi-
ence as RO.

Soon, however, in what Benkler calls the “second critical inno-
vation of the writable Web,”10 bloggers added a way for their audi-
ence to talk back. Comments became an integral part of blogging.
Some of these comments were insightful, some were silly, some
were designed simply to incite. But by adding a way to talk back,
blogs changed how they were read.

This was the first layer of the Net’s RW culture for text. Alone,
however, this layer would be worth very little. How could you find
anything of interest in this vast, undifferentiated sea of content?
If you knew someone you trusted, maybe you’d read her blog. But
why would you waste your time reading some random person’s
thoughts about anything at all?

The next two layers helped solve this problem. The first added
some order to the blogosphere. It did so by adding not a taxonomy
but, as Thomas Vander Wal puts it, a “folksonomy to this RW
culture.”11 Tags and ranking systems, such as, Reddit,
and Digg, enabled readers of a blog or news article to mark it for
others to find or ignore. These marks added meaning to the post
or story. They would help it get organized among the millions of
others that were out there. Together these tools added a metalayer
to the blogosphere, by providing, as Wired cofounder Kevin Kelly
puts it, “a public annotation—like a keyword or category name that
you hang on a file, Web page or picture.”12 And as readers explore
the Web, users leave marks that help others understand or find the
same stuff.

So, for example, if you read an article about Barack Obama, you
can tag it with a short description: “Obama” or “Obama_environ-
ment.” As millions of readers do the same, the system of tagging
begins to impose order on the stuff tagged—even though no one
has drafted a table of tags, and no one imposes any rules about the
tags. You could just as well tag the Obama article “petunias,” and
some few petunia lovers will be disappointed as they follow the sign
to this nonpetunia site. But as more and more users push the arrows
in other ways, more and more follow more faithful taggers.

Tagging thus added a layer of meaning to RW content. The
more tags, the more useful and significant they become. Impor-
tantly, this significance is created directly by the viewers or consum-
ers of that culture—not by advertisers, or by any other intentional
efforts at commercial promotion. This reputation and word-of-
mouth technology create a competing set of meanings that get asso-
ciated with any content. The tools become “powerful forces that
marketers must harness,” though as Don Tapscott and Anthony
Williams point out, this is a force that can “just as easily spin out of
control in unpredictable ways.”13

As they add meaning to content, these tools also enable col-
laboration. Significance and salience are a self-conscious commu-
nity activity.14 Sites such as reinforce this community
power by allowing users to share bookmarks, enabling “links [to]
become . . . the basis for learning new things and making connec-
tions to new people.”15 They also change the relative power of the
reader. As the reader “writes” with tags or votes, the importance of
the original writing changes. A major national newspaper could
have the highest-paid technology writer in the world. But what
happens to that writer when it turns out that the columns read by
more, and recommended by most, are written by eighteen-year-old
bloggers? The New York Times used to have the power to say who
was the most significant. A much more democratic force does that

The third layer of this RW culture for text is much less direct.
These are tools that try to measure the significance of a conversa-
tion by counting the links that others make to the conversations.
Technorati is the leader in this area so far. Its (ro)bots crawl the
world of blogs, counting who links to whom or what. The company
then publishes up-to-the-minute rankings and link reports, so you
can post a blog entry and, minutes later, begin watching everyone
who links back to that entry. Technorati says it updates its index
every ten minutes.16 With over 100 million blogs indexed, that’s a
very fast update.

Indices like this show the revealed preferences of the blogo-
sphere. In almost real time, we can see who is wielding influence.
And as the space matures, most interestingly, we can see that the
influence of blogs is increasingly outstripping mainstream media.
In the Q4 report for 2006, Technorati reported that in the 51–100
range of most popular sites on the Web, 25 percent were blogs.17
Ten years before, 0 percent of nonprofessional content would have
been among the most popular of any popular media.

These three layers, then, work together. There would be noth-
ing without the content. But there would be too much to be useful
were there only the content. So, in addition to content, content about
content—tags, and recommendations—combined with tools to
measure the influence of content. The whole becomes an ecosystem
of reputation. Those trying to interact with culture now recognize
this space as critical to delivering or understanding a message.

Many worry about this blogosphere. Some worry it is just a fad—
but what fad has ever caught 100 million users before? Charlene Li
reports that 33 percent of teenagers make a blog entry weekly, and
41 percent visit a social networking site daily.18 And absolutely every
major publication devotes a substantial amount of resources to mak-
ing this presence as important as any.

Others worry about quality; how can bloggers match the New
York Times? What bloggers will spend the effort necessary to get
their stories right?

If the question is asked about blogs on average, then no doubt
the skepticism is merited. But if the same question were asked of
newspapers on average, then great skepticism about newspapers
would be merited as well. The point with both is that we have
effective tools for assessing quality. And more important, we have
increasingly famous examples of blogs outdoing traditional media
in delivering both quality and truth. Yochai Benkler catalogs a host
of cases where bloggers did better than mainstream media in fer-
reting out the truth, such as uncovering the truth about Trent Lott’s
affection for racist statements, or the lack of veracity in Diebold’s
claims about its voting machines.19 And even a cursory review of
key political blogs—Instapundit or Michelle Malkin on the Right,
the Daily Kos or the Huffington Post on the Left—reveals a depth
and an understanding that are rare in even the best of mainstream
media. The point is there’s good and bad on both sides. But perhaps
in the blogosphere, there are better mechanisms for determining
what is good and what is bad.

The point was driven home to me in the 2004 election. That
election, of course, had created public awareness about blogs, since
the early front-runner, Vermont governor Howard Dean, had been
created by blog culture. But as I watched the returns from that elec-
tion on national television, I began to feel sorry for the “correspon-
dents” who had to report on this pivotal election on television. In
one example, one of our nation’s most prominent correspondents
was asked to give, as the segment was advertised, an “in-depth anal-
ysis of” voters in one particular state. When the segment began, the
national desk switched to this correspondent, and he began with
a question to three “average voters” from the state. He then had
about thirty seconds to add his own witty insight on top of their
totally inane blather about why they had voted as they did. And
that was it. One minute, and zero substance, broadcast to millions
across the country.

It so happened that at the same time, I was reading an “in-depth
analysis” of the same state, posted on a blog. The post had been
written within the previous three hours. It was chock-full of sub-
stance and insight. Timely, smart, and comprehensive—much bet-
ter than the “human angle” news that is national news today, and
much more reflective of the talent of a great journalist. The televi-
sion reporter no doubt thought he was a journalist. But with TV
tuned to the attention span of an increasingly ADD public, who
can afford to be a journalist?

There’s one more important dimension to the RW culture of
text on the Internet: the power of advertising. In this realm, the edi-
torial power of advertisers is radically smaller than in traditional
media. An advertiser can choose whether and where to advertise.
But advertising is still a small part of the economy of blogging, and
where it is relevant, many different content sources compete, so
the ability of an advertiser indirectly to control content is radically

The RW Internet is an ecosystem.

Many will remain skeptical. If the quality of the average blog is
so bad, what good could this RW creativity be doing? But here we
need to focus upon a second aspect of RW creativity—not so much
the quality of the speech it produces, but the effect it has upon the
person producing the speech.

I’ve felt one aspect of this effect personally. I’m a law profes-
sor. For the first decade of my law professor life, I wrote with the
blissful understanding that no one was reading what I wrote. That
knowledge gave me great freedom. More important, whatever the
three readers of my writing thought remained their own private
thoughts. Law professors write for law journals. Law journals don’t
attach comments to the articles they publish.

Blog space is different. You can see people read your writing; if
you allow, you can see their comments. The consequence of both is
something you can’t quite understand until you’ve endured it. Like
eating spinach or working out, I force myself to suffer it because I
know it’s good for me. I’ve written a blog since 2002. Each entry
has a link for comments. I don’t screen or filter comments (save for
spam). I don’t require people to give their real name. The forum
is open for anyone to say whatever he or she wants. And people
do. Some of the comments are quite brilliant. Many add important
facts I’ve omitted or clarify what I’ve misunderstood. Some com-
mentators become regulars. One character, “Three Blind Mice,”
has been a regular for a long time, rarely agreeing with anything
I say.

But many of the comments are as rude and abusive as language
allows. There are figures—they’re called “trolls”—who live for the
fights they can gin up in these spaces. They behave awfully. Their
arguments are (in the main) ridiculous, and they generally make
comment spaces deeply unpleasant.

Other commentators find ways around these trolls. Norms like
“don’t feed the troll” are invoked whenever anyone takes a troll on.
But there’s only so much that can be done, at least so long as the
forum owner (me) doesn’t block certain people or force everyone to
use his or her real name.

I find it insanely difficult to read these comments. Not because
they’re bad or mistaken, but mainly because I have very thin skin.
There’s a direct correlation between what I read and pain in my
gut. Even unfair and mistaken criticism cuts me in ways that are
just silly. If I read a bad comment before bed, I don’t sleep. If I trip
upon one when I’m trying to write, I can be distracted for hours. I
fantasize about creating an alter ego who responds on my behalf.
But I don’t have the courage for even that deception. So instead,
my weakness manifests itself through the practice (extraordinarily
unfair to the comment writer) of sometimes not reading what oth-
ers have said.

So then why do I blog all? Well, much of the time, I have no
idea why I do it. But when I do, it has something to do with an ethic
I believe that we all should live by. I first learned it from a judge I
clerked for, Judge Richard Posner. Posner is without a doubt the
most significant legal academic and federal judge of our time, and
perhaps of the last hundred years. He was also the perfect judge to
clerk for. Unlike the vast majority of appeals court judges, Posner
writes his own opinions. The job of the clerk was simply to argue.
He would give us a draft opinion, and we’d write a long memo in
critique. He’d use that to redraft the opinion.

I gave Posner comments on much more than his opinions. In
particular, soon after I began teaching he sent me a draft of a book,
which would eventually become Sex and Reason. Much of the book
was brilliant. But there was one part I thought ridiculous. And in a
series of faxes (I was teaching in Budapest, and this was long before
e-mail was generally available), I sent him increasingly outrageous
comments, arguing about this section of the book.

The morning after I sent one such missive, I reread it, and was
shocked by its abusive tone. I wrote a sheepish follow-up, apologiz-
ing, and saying that of course, I had endless respect for Posner, blah,
blah, and blah. All that was true. So too was it true that I thought
my comments were unfair. But Posner responded not by accepting
my apology, but by scolding me. And not by scolding me for my
abusive fax, but for my apology. “I’m surrounded by sycophants,”
he wrote. “The last thing in the world I need is you to filter your
comments by reference to my feelings.”

I was astonished by the rebuke. But from that moment on, I
divided the world into those who would follow (or even recom-
mend) Posner’s practice, and those who wouldn’t. And however
attractive the anti-Posner pose was, I wanted to believe I could fol-
low his ethic: Never allow, or encourage, the sycophants. Reward
the critics. Not because I’d ever become a judge, or a public fig-
ure as important as Posner. But because in following his example,
I would avoid the worst effects of the protected life (as a tenured
professor) that I would lead.

Until the Internet, there was no good way to do this, at least
if you were as insignificant as I. It’s not like I could go to my local
Starbucks and hold a public forum. There are people who do
that in my neighborhood. Most of them have not showered for
weeks. Famous people could do this, in principle. But the ethic of
public appearances today, at least for Americans, militates against
this sort of directness. It’s rude to be critical. Indeed, if you’re too
critical, you’re likely to be removed from the forum by men with

This is not the way it is everywhere. In perhaps the most dra-
matic experience of democracy I’ve witnessed, I watched Brazil’s
minister of culture, Gilberto Gil, argue with a loving but critical
crowd (loving his music and most of his policies, except the part
that protected incumbent radio stations).21 The forum was packed.
There was no stage that separated Gil from the hundreds who
huddled around to hear him. People argued directly with him. He
argued back, equal to equal. The exchange was so honest that it
even embarrassed John Perry Barlow, Gil’s friend and fan, who
stood to defend Gil against the critics.

But Gil loved the exchange. He was not embarrassed by the
harshness of the criticism. His manner encouraged it. He was a
democratic leader in a real (as opposed to hierarchical) democracy.
He was Posner in Brazil.

For those of us who are not Posner and not Gil, the Internet is
the one context that encourages the ethic of democracy that they
exemplify. It is the place where all writing gets to be RW. To write in
this medium is to know that anything one writes is open to debate.
I used to love the conceit of a law review article—presenting its
arguments as if they were proven, with little or no space provided
for disagreement. I now feel guilty about participating in such a

All this openness is the product of a kind of democracy made
real with writing. If trends continue, we’re about to see this democ-
racy made real with all writing. The publishers are going to fight
the Googlezation of books. But as authors see that the most signifi-
cant writing is that which is RW, they’ll begin to insist that their
publishers relax. In ten years, everything written that is read will
be accessible on the Net—meaning not that people will be able to
download copies to read on their DRM-encumbered reader but
accessible in an open-access way, so that others will be able to com-
ment on, and rate, and criticize the writing they read. This write/
read is the essence of RW.

Text is just a small part of the RW culture that the Internet
is. Consider now its big, and ultimately much more significant,

                       Remixed: Media

For most of the Middle Ages in Europe, the elite spoke and wrote
in Latin. The masses did not. They spoke local, or vernacular, lan-
guages—what we now call French, German, and English. What
was important to the elites was thus inaccessible to the masses. The
most “important” texts were understood by only a few.

Text is today’s Latin. It is through text that we elites communi-
cate (look at you, reading this book). For the masses, however, most
information is gathered through other forms of media: TV, film,
music, and music video. These forms of “writing” are the vernacu-
lar of today. They are the kinds of “writing” that matters most to
most. Nielsen Media Research, for example, reports that the aver-
age TV is left on for 8.25 hours a day, “more than an hour longer
than a decade ago.”22 The average American watches that average
TV about 4.5 hours a day.23 If you count other forms of media—
including radio, the Web, and cell phones—the number doubles.24
In 2006, the U.S. Bureau of the Census estimated that “American
adults and teens will spend nearly five months” in 2007 consum-
ing media.25 These statistics compare with falling numbers for text.
Everything is captured in this snapshot of generations:

    Individuals age 75 and over averaged 1.4 hours of reading per
    weekend day and 0.2 hour (12 minutes) playing games or using a
    computer for leisure. Conversely, individuals ages 15 to 19 read for
    an average of 0.1 hour (7 minutes) per weekend day and spent 1.0
    hour playing games or using a computer for leisure.26

It is no surprise, then, that these other forms of “creating” are
becoming an increasingly dominant form of “writing.” The Inter-
net didn’t make these other forms of “writing” (what I will call
simply “media”) significant. But the Internet and digital technolo-
gies opened these media to the masses. Using the tools of digital
technology—even the simplest tools, bundled into the most innova-
tive modern operating systems—anyone can begin to “write” using
images, or music, or video. And using the facilities of a free digital
network, anyone can share that writing with anyone else. As with
RW text, an ecology of RW media is developing. It is younger than
the ecology of RW texts. But it is growing more quickly, and its
appeal is much broader.27

These RW media look very much like Ben’s writing with text.
They remix, or quote, a wide range of “texts” to produce something
new. These quotes, however, happen at different layers. Unlike text,
where the quotes follow in a single line—such as here, where the
sentence explains, “and then a quote gets added”—remixed media
may quote sounds over images, or video over text, or text over
sounds. The quotes thus get mixed together. The mix produces the
new creative work—the “remix.”

These remixes can be simple or they can be insanely complex.
At one end, think about a home movie, splicing a scene from Super-
man into the middle. At the other end, there are new forms of art
being generated by virtuosic remixing of images and video with
found and remade audio. Think again about Girl Talk, remixing
between 200 and 250 samples from 167 artists in a single CD. This
is not simply copying. Sounds are being used like paint on a palette.
But all the paint has been scratched off of other paintings.

So how should we think about it? What does it mean, exactly?

However complex, in its essence remix is, as Negativland’s Don
Joyce described to me, “just collage.” Collage, as he explained,

    [e]merged with the invention of photography. Very shortly after
    it was invented . . . you started seeing these sort of joking postcards
    that were photo composites. There would be a horse-drawn wagon
    with a cucumber in the back the size of a house. Things like that.
    Just little joking composite photograph things. That impressed
    painters at the time right away.

But collage with physical objects is difficult to do well and expen-
sive to spread broadly. Those barriers either kept many away from
this form of expression, or channeled collage into media that could
be remixed cheaply. As Mark Hosler of Negativland described to
me, explaining his choice to work with audio,

    I realized that you could get a hold of some four-track reel-to-
    reel for not that much money and have it at home and actually
    play around with it and experiment and try out stuff. But with
    film, you couldn’t do that. It was too expensive. . . . So that . . . drove
    me . . . to pick a medium where we could actually control what we
    were doing with a small number of people, to pull something off
    and make some finished thing to get it out there.28

With digital objects, however, the opportunity for wide-scale
collage is very different. “Now,” as filmmaker Johan Söderberg
explained, “you can do [video remix] almost for free on your own
computer.”29 This means more people can create in this way, which
means that many more do. The images or sounds are taken from
the tokens of culture, whether digital or analog. The tokens are
“blaring at us all the time,” as Don Joyce put it to me: “We are bar-
raged” by expression intended originally as simply RO. Negativ-
land’s Mark Hosler:

     When you turn around 360 degrees, how many different ads or logos
     will you see somewhere in your space? [O]n your car, on your wrist-
     watch, on a billboard. If you walk into any grocery store or restaurant
     or anywhere to shop, there’s always a soundtrack playing. There’s
     always . . . media. There’s ads. There’s magazines everywhere. . . . [I]t’s
     the world we live in. It’s the landscape around us.

This “barrage” thus becomes a source.30 As Johan Söderberg
says, “To me, it is just like cooking. In your cupboard in your
kitchen you have lots of different things and you try to connect dif-
ferent tastes together to create something interesting.”

The remix artist does the same thing with bits of culture found
in his digital cupboard.

My favorites among the remixes I’ve seen are all cases in which
the mix delivers a message more powerfully than any original alone
could, and certainly more than words alone could.

For example, a remix by Jonathan McIntosh begins with a
scene from The Matrix, in which Agent Smith asks, “Do you ever
get the feeling you’re living in a virtual reality dream world? Fab-
ricated to enslave your mind?” The scene then fades to a series of
unbelievable war images from the Fox News Channel—a news
organization that arguably makes people less aware of the facts
than they were before watching it.31 Toward the end, the standard
announcer voice says, “But there is another sound: the sound of
good will.” On the screen is an image of Geraldo Rivera, some-
where in Afghanistan. For about four seconds, he stands there
silently, with the wind rushing in the background. (I can always
measure the quickness of my audience by how long it takes for
people to get the joke: “the sound of good will” = silence). The clip
closes with a fast series of cuts to more Fox images, and then a final
clip from an ad for the film that opened McIntosh’s remix: “The
Matrix Has You.”

Or consider the work of Sim Sadler, video artist and filmmaker.
My favorite of his is called “Hard Working George.” It builds exclu-
sively from a video of George Bush in one of his 2004 debates with
John Kerry. Again and again, Sadler clips places where Bush says,
essentially, “it’s hard work.” Here’s the transcript:

    Sir, in answer to your question I just know how this world works.
    I see on TV screens how hard it is. We’re making progress; it is
    hard work. You know, it’s hard work. It’s hard work. A lot of
    really great people working hard, they can do the hard work.
    That’s what distinguishes us from the enemy. And it’s hard work,
    but it’s necessary work and that’s essential, but again I want to
    tell the American people it’s hard work. It is hard work. It’s hard
    work. There is no doubt in my mind that it is necessary work. I
    understand how hard it is, that’s my job. No doubt about it, it’s
    tough. It’s hard work which I really want to do, but I would hope
    I never have to—nothing wrong with that. But again I repeat to
    my fellow citizens, we’re making progress. We’re making progress
    there. I reject this notion. It’s ludicrous. It is hard work. It’s hard
    work. That’s the plan for victory and that is the best way. What I
    said was it’s hard work and I made that very clear.

Usually, the audience breaks into uncontrolled laughter at “I
would hope I never have to—nothing wrong with that,” so people
don’t hear the rest of the clip. But by the end, the filter Sadler has
imposed lets us understand Bush’s message better.

Some look at this clip and say, “See, this shows anything can
be remixed to make a false impression of the target.” But in fact,
the “not working hard” works as well as it does precisely because
it is well known that at least before 9/11, Bush was an extremely
remote president, on vacation 42 percent of his first eight months
in office.32 The success of the clip thus comes from building upon
what we already know. It is powerful because it makes Bush him-
self say what we know is true about him. The same line wouldn’t
have worked with Clinton, or Bill Gates. Whatever you want to say
about them, no one thinks they don’t work hard.

My favorite of all these favorites, however, is still a clip in a series
called “Read My Lips,” created by Söderberg. Söderberg is an artist,
director, and professional video editor. He has edited music videos for
Robbie Williams and Madonna and, as he put it, “all kinds of pop
stars.” He also has an Internet TV site——that carries
all his own work. That work stretches back almost twenty years.

“Read My Lips” is a series Söderberg made for a Swedish com-
pany called Atmo, in which famous people are lip-synched with
music or other people’s words. They all are extraordinarily funny
(though you can’t see all of them anymore because one, which mixed
Hitler with the song “Born to Be Alive,” resulted in a lawsuit).

The best of these (in my view at least) is a love song with Tony
Blair and George Bush. The sound track for the video is Lionel
Richie’s “Endless Love.” Remember the words “My love, there’s
only you in my life.” The visuals are images of Bush and Blair.
Through careful editing, Söderberg lip-synchs Bush singing the
male part and Blair singing the female part. The execution is almost
perfect. The message couldn’t be more powerful: an emasculated
Britain, as captured in the puppy love of its leader for Bush.

The obvious point is that a remix like this can’t help but make
its argument, at least in our culture, far more effectively than could
words. (By “effectively,” I mean that it delivers its message success-
fully to a wide range of viewers.) For anyone who has lived in our
era, a mix of images and sounds makes its point far more power-
fully than any eight-hundred-word essay in the New York Times
could. No one can deny the power of this clip, even Bush and Blair
supporters, again in part because it trades upon a truth we all—
including Bush and Blair supporters—recognize as true. It doesn’t
assert the truth. It shows it. And once it is shown, no one can escape
its mimetic effect. This video is a virus; once it enters your brain,
you can’t think about Bush and Blair in the same way again.

But why, as I’m asked over and over again, can’t the remixer
simply make his own content? Why is it important to select a
drumbeat from a certain Beatles recording? Or a Warhol image?
Why not simply record your own drumbeat? Or paint your own

The answer to these questions is not hard if we focus again upon
why these tokens have meaning. Their meaning comes not from
the content of what they say; it comes from the reference, which is
expressible only if it is the original that gets used. Images or sounds
collected from real-world examples become “paint on a palette.”
And it is this “cultural reference,” as coder and remix artist Victor
Stone explained, that “has emotional meaning to people. . . . When
you hear four notes of the Beatles’ ‘Revolution,’ it means some-
thing.”33 When you “mix these symbolic things together” with
something new, you create, as Söderberg put it, “something new
that didn’t exist before.”

The band Negativland has been making remixes using “found
culture”—collected recordings of RO culture—for more than
twenty-five years. As I described at the start, they first became
(in)famous when they were the target of legal action brought by
Casey Kasem and the band U2 after Negativland released a mash-
up of Casey Kasem’s introduction of U2 on his Top 40 show. So
why couldn’t Negativland simply have used something origi-
nal? Why couldn’t they rerecord the clip with an actor? Hosler

    We could have taken these tapes we got of Casey Kasem and
    hired someone who imitated Casey Kasem, you know, and had
    him do a dramatic re-creation. Why did we have to use the actual
    original . . . the actual thing? Well, it’s because the actual thing has
    a power about it. It has an aura. It has a magic to it. And that’s
    what inspires the work.

   Likewise with their remarkable, if remarkably irreverent,
film, The Mashin’ of the Christ. This five-minute movie is made
from remixing the scores of movies made throughout history
about Jesus’ crucifixion. The audio behind these images is a
revivalist preacher who repeatedly says (during the first minute),
“Christianity is stupid.” The film then transitions at about a min-
ute and a half when the preacher says, “Communism is good.” The
first quote aligns Christians, at least, against the film. But the sec-
ond then reverses that feeling, as the film might also be seen as a
criticism of Communism. As Hosler explained the work:

    The Mashin’ of the Christ just came out of an idle thought that
    crossed my mind one day when I was flipping around on Amazon
    .com. I thought, “How many movies have been made about the
    life of Jesus, anyway?” I came up with thirty or forty of them and
    I started thinking about [how] every one of those films has similar
    sequences of Jesus being beaten, flogged, whipped, abused. There’s
    always a shot where he’s carrying the cross and he stumbles and he
    falls. And it just occurred to me . . . I thought that would make an
    interesting montage of stuff.

This montage’s point could not have been made by simply shooting
crucifixion film number forty-one.

                    The Significance of Remix

I’ve described what I mean by remix by describing a bit of its prac-
tice. Whether text or beyond text, remix is collage; it comes from
combining elements of RO culture; it succeeds by leveraging the
meaning created by the reference to build something new.

But why should anyone care about whether remix flourishes, or
even exists? What does anyone gain, beyond a cheap laugh? What
does a society gain, beyond angry famous people?

There are two goods that remix creates, at least for us, or for
our kids, at least now. One is the good of community. The other is


Remixes happen within a community of remixers. In the digital
age, that community can be spread around the world. Members of
that community create in part for one another. They are showing
one another how they can create, as kids on a skateboard are show-
ing their friends how they can create. That showing is valuable,
even when the stuff produced is not.

Consider, for example, the community creating anime music
videos (AMV). Anime are the Japanese cartoons that swept
America a few years ago. AMVs are (typically) created by remixing
images from these cartoons with a music track or the track from a
movie trailer. Each video can take between fifty and four hundred
hours to create. There are literally thousands that are shared non-
commercially at the leading site,

The aim of these creators is in part to learn. It is in part to show
off. It is in part to create works that are strikingly beautiful. The
work is extremely difficult to do well. Anyone who does it well also
has the talent to do well in the creative industries. This fact has
not been lost on industry, or universities training kids for industry.
After I described AMVs at one talk, a father approached me with
tears in his eyes. “You don’t know how important this stuff is,” he
told me. “My kid couldn’t get into any university. He then showed
them his AMVs, and now he’s at one of the best design schools in

AMVs are peculiarly American—or, though they build upon
Japanese anime, they are not particularly Japanese. This is not because
Japanese kids are not remixers. To the contrary, Japanese culture
encourages this remixing from a much younger age, and much more
broadly. According to cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito,

    Japanese media have really been at the forefront of pushing recom-
    binant and user-driven content starting with very young children.
    If you consider things like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! as examples of
    these kinds of more fannish forms of media engagement, the base
    of it is very broad in Japan, probably much broader than in the
    U.S. Something like Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! reached a saturation
    point of nearly 100 percent within kids’ cultures in Japan.34

But the difference between cultures is not just about saturation.
Henry Jenkins quotes education professors David Buckingham
and Julia Sefton-Green, “Pokémon is something you do, not just
something you read or watch or consume,” and continues:

    There are several hundred different Pokémon, each with multiple
    evolutionary forms and a complex set of rivalries and attachments.
    There is no one text where one can go to get the information about
    these various species; rather, the child assembles what they know
    about the Pokémon from various media with the result that each
    child knows something his or her friends do not and thus has a
    chance to share this expertise with others.35

“Every person,” Ito explains, thus “has a personalized set of Poké-
mon. That is very different from [American media, which are] ask-
ing kids to identify with a single character.”

Pokémon is just a single example of a common practice in Japan.
This more common practice pushes “kids to develop more persona
lives, and remix-oriented pathways to the content.” Kids in the sec-
ond and third grades, for example, will all

    carry around just a little sketchbook . . . with drawings of manga
    [cartoon] characters in them. That’s what [Japanese] kids do. Then
    by fourth or fifth grade there are certain kids that get known to be
    good at drawing and then they actually start making their original
    stories. Then at some point there needs to be an induction into the
    whole doujinshi scene, which is its own subculture. That usually
    happens through knowing an older kid who’s involved in that.

American kids have it different. The focus is not: “Here’s some-
thing, do something with it.” The focus is instead: “Here’s some-
thing, buy it.” “The U.S. has a stronger cultural investment in the
idea of childhood innocence,” Ito explains, “and it also has a more
protectionist view with respect to media content.” And this “protec-
tionism” extends into schooling as well. “Entertainment” is sepa-
rate from “education.” So any skill learned in this “remix culture” is
“constructed oppositionally to academic achievement.” Thus, while
“remix culture” flourishes with adult-oriented media in the United
States, “there’s still a lot of resistance to media that are coded as
children’s media being really fully [integrated] into that space.”

Yet the passion for remix is growing in American kids, and
AMVs are one important example. Ito has been studying these
AMV creators, getting a “sense of their trajectories” as creators. At
what moment, she is trying to understand, does “a fan see [him-
self] as a media producer and not just a consumer”? And what was
the experience (given it was certainly not formal education) that led
them to this form of expression?

Ito’s results are not complete, but certain patterns are clear. “A
very high proportion of kids who engage in remix culture,” for
example, “have had experience with interactive gaming formats.”
“The AMV scene is dominated by middle-class white men”—in
contrast to the most famous remixers in recent Japanese history, the
“working-class girls” who produced doujinshi. Most “have a day job
or are full-time students but . . . have an incredibly active amateur
life. . . . [They] see themselves as producers and participants in a cul-
ture and not just recipients of it.” That participation happens with
others. They form the community. That community supports itself.


A second value in remix extends beyond the value of a community.
Remix is also and often, as Mimi Ito describes, a strategy to excite
“interest-based learning.” As the name suggests, interest-based
learning is the learning driven by found interests. When kids get to
do work that they feel passionate about, kids (and, for that matter,
adults) learn more and learn more effectively.

I wrote about this in an earlier book, Free Culture. There I de-
scribed the work of Elizabeth Daley and Stephanie Barish, both of
whom were working with kids in inner-city schools. By giving these
kids basic media literacy, they saw classes of students who before
could not retain their focus for a single period now spending every
free moment of every hour the school was open editing and perfect-
ing video about their lives, or about stories they wanted to tell.

Others have seen the same success grow from using remix
media to teach. At the University of Houston—a school where a
high percentage of the students don’t speak English as their first
language—the Digital Storytelling project has produced an
extraordinary range of historical videos, created by students who
research the story carefully, and select from archives of images and
sounds the mix that best conveys the argument they want their
video to make.

As Henry Jenkins notes, “[M]any adults worry that these kids
are ‘copying’ preexisting media content rather than creating their
own original works.”36 But as Jenkins rightly responds, “More and
more literacy experts are recognizing that enacting, reciting, and
appropriating elements from preexisting stories is a valuable and
organic part of the process by which children develop cultural lit-
eracy.”37 Parents should instead, Jenkins argues, “think about their
[kids’] appropriations as a kind of apprenticeship.”38 They learn by
remixing. Indeed, they learn more about the form of expression
they remix than if they simply made that expression directly.

This is not to say, of course, that however they do this remix,
they’re doing something good. There’s good and bad remix, as
there’s good and bad writing. But just as bad writing is not an argu-
ment against writing, bad remix is not an argument against remix.
Instead, in both cases, poor work is an argument for better educa-
tion. As Hosler put it to me:

    Every high school in America needs to have a course in media
    literacy. We’re buried in this stuff. We’re breathing it. We’re
    drinking it constantly. It’s 24/7 news and information and pop
    culture. . . . If you’re trying to educate kids to think critically about
    history and society and culture, you’ve got to be encouraging them
    to be thoughtful and critical about media and information and

Doing something with the culture, remixing it, is one way to

                    The Old in the New

To many, my description of remix will sound like something very
new. In one sense it is. But in a different, perhaps more fundamen-
tal sense, we also need to see that there’s nothing essentially new in
remix. Or put differently, the interesting part of remix isn’t some-
thing new. All that’s new is the technique and the ease with which
the product of that technique can be shared. That ease invites a wider
community to participate; it makes participation more compelling.
But the creative act that is being engaged in is not significantly dif-
ferent from the act Sousa described when he recalled the “young
people together singing the songs of the day or the old songs.”

For as I’ve argued, remix with “media” is just the same sort of
stuff that we’ve always done with words. It is how Ben wrote. It
is how lawyers argue. It is how we all talk all the time. We don’t
notice it as such, because this text-based remix, whether in writ-
ing or conversation, is as common as dust. We take its freedoms
for granted. We all expect that we can quote, or incorporate, other
people’s words into what we write or say. And so we do quote, or
incorporate, or remix what others have said.

The same with “media.” Remixed media succeed when they
show others something new; they fail when they are trite or deriva-
tive. Like a great essay or a funny joke, a remix draws upon the
work of others in order to do new work. It is great writing without
words. It is creativity supported by a new technology.

Yet though this remix is not new, for most of our history it was
silenced. Not by a censor, or by evil capitalists, or even by good capi-
talists. It was silenced because the economics of speaking in this
different way made this speaking impossible, at least for most. If in
1968 you wanted to capture the latest Walter Cronkite news pro-
gram and remix it with the Beatles, and then share it with your
ten thousand best friends, what blocked you was not the law. What
blocked you was that the production costs alone would have been in
the tens of thousands of dollars.

Digital technologies have now removed that economic censor.
The ways and reach of speech are now greater. More people can use
a wider set of tools to express ideas and emotions differently. More
can, and so more will, at least until the law effectively blocks it.

                   CULTURES COMPARED

I’ve described two cultures and two kinds of creativity. One (RO)
is fueled by professionals. The other (RW) is fueled by both pro-
fessionals and amateurs. Both have been critical to the development
of culture. Both will be spread by the maturing of digital technolo-
gies. But though I believe both will grow in the digital age, there
are still important differences between them. In this brief interlude,
consider a few of these differences. Then, before we turn to per-
haps the most interesting development, consider some lessons that
understanding these two cultures can teach.

           Differences in Value— and “Values”

These two cultures embody different values.

RO culture speaks of professionalism. Its tokens of culture de-
mand a certain respect. They offer themselves as authority. They
teach, but not by inviting questions. Or if they invite questions, they
direct the questions to someone other than the speaker. Or per-
former. Or creator.

This form of culture is critically important, both to the spread
of culture and to the spread of knowledge. There are places where
authority is required: No one should want Congress’s laws on a
wiki. Or instructions for administering medication. Or the flight
plan of a commercial airliner.

So too is RO culture central to the growth of the arts. The ability
to channel the commercial return from music or film has allowed
many people to create who otherwise could not. This is the proper
function of copyright law, and its only good justification. Where
we can see that creativity would be hindered by the absence of this
special privilege, the privilege makes sense.

And finally, RO culture makes possible an integrity to expres-
sion that, for some at least, is crucial. Artists want their expression
framed just as they intend it. RO culture gives them that freedom.
Doctors or pharmaceutical companies want to assure that instruc-
tions or medical explanations are not translated by just anyone.
Control here is important, and not at all evil. Again, where it gives
us something we otherwise wouldn’t have—artistic expression or
quality assurance—control can be good.1

RW culture extends itself differently. It touches social life dif-
ferently. It gives the audience something more. Or better, it asks
something more of the audience. It is offered as a draft. It invites
a response. In a culture in which it is common, its citizens develop
a kind of knowledge that empowers as much as it informs or

I see this difference directly in my life as a teacher. When stu-
dents come to law school, most come from an essentially RO educa-
tion. For four years (or more), they’ve sat in large lecture halls, with
a professor at the front essentially reading the same lectures she’s
given year after year after year. “Any questions?” usually elicits
points of order, not substance. “Do we have to read chapter 5?”
“Will the subjunctive be on the exam?”

Maybe that’s the appropriate way to teach most undergraduate
courses. But the best legal education is radically different. The law
school classroom is an argument. The professor provides the source
for that argument. The class is a forum within which that argu-
ment happens. Students don’t listen to lectures. They help make the
lecture. They are asked questions; those questions frame a discus-
sion. The structure demands that they create as they participate in
the discussion.

People who know little about how the law works are puzzled—
sometimes terrified—when they see that this is how we train pro-
fessionals. The model of biochemistry is more attractive to them:
“Here’s a list of things to memorize. Do it.” But the law is not a list
of statutes. The law is a way of speaking and thinking and, most
important, an ethic. Every lawyer must feel responsible for the law
he or she helps make. For within the American system, at least, the
law is made as it is practiced. How it is made depends upon the val-
ues its practitioners share.

This form of education teaches responsibility as well as the sub-
ject. It develops an ethic as well as knowledge about a particular
field. And it expresses a sometimes profound respect for its stu-
dents: from their very first week in law school, they are part of the
conversation that law is. Their views are respected—at least so long
as they place them within the frame of the law’s conversation.

All of us believe this at some level. We all believe that writing
has its own ethic, and that it imposes that ethic on the writer and
the thing written. Those of us who object to judges who delegate
opinion writing to their law clerks do so not so much because we
want judges who are bettered by becoming better writers, but
instead because we want opinions that bear the mark of the con-
straint that comes from the responsibility of writing. Creating is a
responsibility. Only by practicing it can you learn it.

Those who study juries say they have much the same effect on
the citizens who serve on them. Jurors are given evidence. They
act on it. As they deliberate, they recognize they’ve been credited
with (sometimes) extraordinary power. That (sometimes) wakes
them up. They understand they have a responsibility that reaches
far beyond their ordinary lives. That makes them think and act
differently—even after they have rendered their verdict.

These examples bias me. Of course I think reading is impor-
tant. Of course it is “fundamental.” But humans reach far beyond
the fundamental. And as I watch my kids grow, the part I cher-
ish the most is not their reading. It is their writing. Since my old-
est (now five) was two, we have told him “monster man” stories.
Watching his rapt attention at every twist in these totally on-the-fly
made-up stories was a kick. But the moment he first objected to
a particular shift in the plot, and offered his own, was one of the
coolest moments of my life. What we want to see in our kids is their
will. What we want to inspire is a will that constructs well.

I want to see this capacity expressed not just in words. I want to
see it expressed in every form of cultural meaning. I want to watch
as he changes the ending to a song he almost loves. Or adds a char-
acter to a movie that he deeply identifies with. Or paints a picture to
express an idea that before was only latent. I want this RW capacity
in him, generalized. I want him to be the sort of person who can
create by remaking.

This then is the first difference between RO and RW cultures.
One emphasizes learning. The other emphasizes learning by speak-
ing. One preserves its integrity. The other teaches integrity. One
emphasizes a hierarchy. The other hides the hierarchy. No one
would argue we need less of the first, RO culture. But anyone who
has really seen it believes we need much more of the second.

                    Differences in Value (As in $)

The story so far emphasizes values with a capital V. Lefties who
promote social, educational, and democratic ideals would very
much like these values. They speak to the sort of stuff Lefties are
supposed to like.

But there are more reasons to support RW culture than the fact
that a bunch of us tree huggers would like it.

For as well as promoting certain values that at least some of us
find important, the RW culture also promotes economic value.

To see just why, think for second about the devices necessary to
make RO culture work. You see them everywhere. They are smaller
and smaller, and cheaper and cheaper. As bandwidth grows, they
more efficiently grab content, which they then enable you to con-
sume. Their brilliance has grabbed me. I don’t watch “television”
anymore. But I do watch my iPod connected to a screen more and
more. I spend way too much money on this. Apple hopes others
will spend way too much, too.

But the economic value in this consumption is tiny compared
with the economic potential of consumer-generated content. Think
of all the devices you need to make that home movie of your kid
as Superman—the camera, the microphone, the hard disk to store
500 gigabytes of takes, the fast computer to make the rendering
bearable. And then think about the bandwidth you’ll need to share
this creativity with your family and friends.

This is a point that has been made for some time, perhaps never
better than in Andrew Odlyzko’s essay “Content Is Not King”: 2
despite the rhetoric of the content industry, the most valuable con-
tribution to our economy comes from connectivity, not content.
Content is the ginger in gingerbread—important, no doubt, but
nothing like the most valuable component in the mix.

People on the Right need to recognize this. As I’ve watched the
debate about copyright develop, I’ve been astonished by how quickly
those on the Right have been captured by the content industry.
Maybe I’m astonished because, as Stewart Baker chided me in a
review of Free Culture, liberals like me spend too much time talk-
ing to liberals like me rather than to conservatives. As Baker wrote
in his review,

    Viewed up close, copyright bears little resemblance to the kinds
    of property that conservatives value. Instead, it looks like a con-
    stantly expanding government program run for the benefit of a
    noisy, well-organized interest group—like Superfund, say, or
    dairy subsidies, except that the benefits go not to endangered
    homeowners or hard-working farmers but to the likes of Barbra
    Streisand and Eminem. . . . Copyright is a trial lawyer’s dream—
    a regulatory program enforced by private lawsuits where the plain-
    tiffs have all the advantages, from injury-free damages awards to
    liability doctrines that extract damages from anyone who was in
    the neighborhood when an infringement occurred.3

Baker’s is a great point. Let me add to it: As conservative econo-
mists have taught us again and again, value in an economy is least
likely to come from state-protected monopolies. It is most likely to
be generated by competition. There is a huge and vibrant economy
of competition that drives technology in our economy. The monop-
oly rights we call copyright are constraints on that competition. I
believe those constraints are necessary. But as with every necessary
evil, they should be as limited as possible. We should provide pro-
tection from competition only where there is a very good reason to

My point of course is not that we can or should simply sacrifice
RO culture to enable RW. Instead, the opposite: in protecting RO
culture, we shouldn’t kill off the potential for RW.

                      Differences in Value
                    (As in “Is It Any Good?”)

In June 2007, the backlash against RW culture was born. In a short
and cleverly written book titled The Cult of the Amateur, Andrew
Keen, a writer and failed Internet entrepreneur, launched a full-
scale attack on precisely the culture that I am praising. The core of
his attack was that “amateur culture” is killing “our culture.” The
growth of this kind of creativity will eventually destroy much that
we think of as “good” in society. “Not a day goes by without some
new revelation that calls into question the reliability, accuracy, and
truth of the information we get from the Internet,” Keen writes.4
And in response to all the free stuff the Internet offers, Keen is
quite worried: “What is free,” he warns, “is actually costing us a
fortune.”5 Wikipedia, for example, “is almost single-handedly kill-
ing the traditional information business.”6 And the “democratiza-
tion” that I praise “is,” he argues, “undermining truth, souring civic
discourse, and belittling expertise, experience and talent.”7

There is more than a bit of self-parody in Keen’s book. For
though the book attacks the Internet for its sloppiness and error, it
itself is riddled with sloppy errors.8 (Here’s a favorite: “Every defunct
record label, or laid-off newspaper reporter, or bankrupt indepen-
dent bookstore is a consequence of ‘free’ user-generated Internet
content—from craigslist’s free advertising, to YouTube’s free music
videos, to Wikipedia’s free information.”9 “Every”? Wow!)

Yet even if we ignore Keen, his point can’t be ignored. There
are many who have expressed a similar fear about the dangers that
they perceive in this latest form of creativity.

My first exposure to this skepticism was at a conference at New
York University about “fair use.” The Comedies of Fair U$e confer-
ence was filled with artists and creators demonstrating precisely the
creativity I’ve been praising. But in the middle of this conference,
Charles Sims, a lawyer with the firm of Proskauer Rose, pleaded
with the young creators to turn away from their “derivative” form
of creativity. They should focus, Sims argued, on something really
challenging—“original creativity.” Sims said:

    I can’t say strongly enough that I think what Larry is really funda-
    mentally focused on . . . [— ] this parasitic reuse [— ] is such a ter-
    rible diversion of young people’s talent. . . . I think that if you have
    young film people you should be encouraging them to make their
    films and not to simply spend all of their time diddling around
    with footage that other people have made at great expense, to cre-
    ate stuff that’s not very interesting. There’s a fundamental failure
    of imagination. . . .

    I’m saying, that as members of the academy, to encourage young
    people to think that instead of creating out of their own souls and
    their own talents to simply reuse what’s available off the streets to
    them, is underselling the talents that young people have.10

There are a number of layers to this form of criticism. We should
be careful to tease them apart.

Most obvious is the criticism that the work on average is more
than “creative” work. There’s no comparing ten minutes produced
by J. J. Abrams and ten minutes from any of the stuff that passes for
video production on YouTube. Remix is just “crap.” This criticism is
certainly true. The vast majority of remix, like the vast majority of
home movies, or consumer photographs, or singing in the shower,
or blogs, is just crap. Most of these products are silly or derivative, a
waste of even the creator’s time, let alone the consumer’s.

But I never quite get what those who raise this criticism think
follows from the point. I was once a student at the Goethe Institute
in Berlin. After a week of our monthlong intensive German course,
I asked the teacher why we weren’t encouraged to speak more.
“Your German is really quite awful just now,” she told me. “You
would all make terrible mistakes if you spoke, so I think it best if
you just listen.” No doubt her assessment was right. But, amazingly
for a language teacher at the Goethe Institute, she was simply miss-
ing the point.

So too do critics who argue that the vast majority of remix is
bad. Think again about blogs. The value of blogs is not that I’m
likely to find a comment that surpasses the very best of the New York
Times. I’m not. But that’s not the point. Blogs are valuable because
they give millions the opportunity to express their ideas in writing.
And with a practice of writing comes a certain important integrity.
A culture filled with bloggers thinks differently about politics or
public affairs, if only because more have been forced through the
discipline of showing in writing why A leads to B.

If this point weren’t true, why would we teach our kids how to
write? Given that the vast majority will never write anything more
than an e-mail or a shopping list, why is it important to torture
them with creative writing essays? For again, like the Internet, the
vast majority of what students write is just crap (trust me on this
one). What reason is there for wasting their time (and worse, mine)
to produce such garbage?

(That’s a rhetorical question. I suspect you see the point.)

A second layer to this criticism is more relevant but even less
true. Some criticize what I’m calling “remix” by arguing there’s no
there there. This is Sims’s real complaint. Even granted that most
is crap, even the best, in his view, is a waste, “a fundamental failure
of imagination.”

But anyone who thinks remixes or mash-ups are neither orig-
inal nor creative has very little idea about how they are made or
what makes them great. It takes extraordinary knowledge about a
culture to remix it well. The artist or student training to do it well
learns far more about his past than one committed to this (in my
view, hopelessly naive) view about “original creativity.” And per-
haps more important, the audience is constantly looking for more
as the audience reads what the remixer has written. Knowing that
the song is a mix that could draw upon all that went before, each
second is an invitation to understand the links that were drawn—
their meaning, the reason they were included. The form makes
demands on the audience; they return the demands in kind.

This point links directly with an argument advanced by Ste-
ven Johnson in his fantastic book, Everything Bad Is Good for You.11
Aiming to rebut the view that television has become “brain dead,”
Johnson argues that TV has in fact become more rich and com-
plex over time, not less. The reason relates in part to technology. As
people collect not only television sets but DVD players, producers of
television programming have a strong incentive to give their audi-
ence an interest in after-broadcast sales. A show maximizes its reve-
nue when there’s a postbroadcast demand for DVDs or for reruns.

So how do you create that demand? One way is through com-
plexity. As Johnson demonstrates, the most successful television
shows have multiplied the number of plot lines running through
them. And though the shows are always understandable at one
viewing, few viewers would understand everything going on in
every show. The fan thus has a reason to watch it again—which
means, buy the DVD or tune in to reruns. Complexity thus
drives follow-on consumption. Henry Jenkins makes a related
point about movies:

    The old Hollywood system depended on redundancy to ensure
    that viewers could follow the plot at all times, even if they were
    distracted or went out to the lobby for a popcorn refill during a
    crucial scene. The new Hollywood demands that we keep our
    eyes on the road at all times, and that we do research before we
    arrive at the theater.12

Obviously, this idea can be taken too far. The story can’t be
totally inaccessible. There must be some payoff for watching the
first time. But the key is to make the first time, and the next ten
times, worth it. To make once necessary but not enough.

This strategy is not new with television. Think about the great
nineteenth-century novels. When an author such as Dickens wrote
his novels in serial form (where each chapter originally appears as
an installment in a magazine, published before the full novel was
completed),13 his goal was to attract people to each installment, and
then to draw them back to the finished book. Dickens (and many
others) did this by writing very intricate stories that repaid many

Remix is doing the same thing with other forms of culture.
Like the work of a great classical composer (Mahler and Beethoven
fit here), the best remix is compelling both the first time and the
hundredth time. Indeed, it is only by the hundredth time that one
begins to understand it enough for it to make sense. There needs
to be a strong enough raw pull to get the listener to that hundredth
hearing (something Arnold Schoenberg never quite got). But once
you’re hooked, you don’t fight to get free. You listen again and again,
each time hoping to understand more.

Even with nonclassical music, this isn’t completely new. Why
does one listen to Bob Dylan a thousand times, or to the ballads of
Jeff Tweedy again and again? It’s not just the music that compels
the repeated listening. In this form, the melody is best if it’s simple
and compelling. Instead, it is the poetry that the melody illustrates.
You listen again and again because each time you understand the
poetry differently—more, and more fit to the context.

Thus the argument in favor of remix—the essential art of
the RW culture—is not simply the negative: what harm are they
doing? The argument for me is strongly positive: I want my kids
to listen to SilviaO’s remix of fourstones’ latest work—a thousand
times I want them to listen. Because that listening is active, and
engaged, far more than the brain-dead melodies or lyrics of a Brit-
ney Spears. Her work draws on nothing, save the forbidden and
erotic. In this, it may be, in Sims’s view, perfectly original. Yet it
is also totally derivative, and deeply disrespectful of the tradition
from which she comes. You pay respect to tradition by incorporat-
ing it. But you make the tradition compelling by doing so in a way
that makes everyone want to understand more. As the novelist Jon-
athan Lethem puts it, “What we want from every artist is that they
surprise us and show us something unprecedented. But . . . this act is
itself innately supported by response, appropriate, imitation.”14

And then there’s one final layer of this criticism that in the end
annoys me the most. Maybe some of this work is okay, this criticism
says, and some of it is even quite good. But none of it is as good as
the greats of [you pick the time]. Our culture, the story goes, is col-
lapsing. There are no standards anymore. There is no quality. Taste
and art are wasting away.

Every generation has had the experience of an older generation
insisting that the new is degraded, that only the old is great. Didn’t
that experience teach us something? As Ithiel de Sola Pool said
almost two decades ago, “Each generation sees as its culture those
values and practices with which it grew up. Its hallowed traditions
are those it learned in childhood.”15 Of course the new is inferior to
the past. How else could it be progress?

But even accepting this critique, what should be done about it?
If our culture is collapsing because millions of people are choosing
to watch or create stuff that the critic doesn’t like, should the gov-
ernment intervene on behalf of the critic? I’d be the first to admit
that the state has a role in regulating society, and I’m even willing
to admit that sometimes the state has a role in regulating speech.
Copyright law, after all, is a regulation of speech, and justified if
it produces incentives to create speech that otherwise wouldn’t be

But none of these justifications for state regulation could ever
support the idea that we intervene to suppress a form of “culture”
that some elite believes is not good enough. Subsidies are one thing.
Prohibition is something radically different.

Maybe, however, the most effective response to this criticism
is one that Victor Stone, architect of ccMixter, offered me: “You
know . . . this discussion will be over in ten or twenty years. As the
boomers die out, and they get over themselves by dying, the genera-
tion that follows . . . just doesn’t care about this discussion. They just
assume that remixing is part of music, and it’s part of the process,
and that’s it.”

And they’ll defend it, at least until a new form of creativity
comes along that they try to stop. We all become our parents.

                    Differences in Law
                  (As in “Is It Allowed?”)

American copyright law regulates (at least potentially) 17 any cre-
ative work produced after 1923, for a maximum term of life of the
author plus seventy years, or ninety-five years for corporate work
or work created before 1978. This regulation relates differently to
RO and RW cultures. Put simply, current copyright law supports
the practices of the RO culture and opposes the practices of the RW
culture. Or again, as the law is architected just now, it clearly favors
one kind of culture over another.

Consider first copyright’s relationship to RO culture. As I’ve
described, the essence of RO is that the user, or consumer, is given
the permission to consume the culture he purchases. He has no
legal permission beyond that permission to consume. During the
analog history of RO culture, he had no easy technical capacity
beyond that capacity to consume.

Digital technologies changed the technical capacity. In its first
version, digital technologies gave users almost unlimited technical
capacity to mix and remix RO culture. But “can” does not imply
“may.” While the tools enabled users to do with RO culture as they
wished, the law did not grant users of RO culture the permission to
do as they wished. Instead, as applied to a world where each use of
culture is a copy, RO culture required the permission of copyright
owners before RO culture could be remade.

This gap between what the law permitted and what the technol-
ogy allowed could have been closed either by changing the law or
by changing the technology. The past five years have seen changes
in both—but both aiming to strengthen the control over content,
not weaken it. As RO culture has evolved in the digital world, tech-
nologies have given the copyright owner an ever-increasing oppor-
tunity to control precisely how copyrighted content is consumed.
At its most extreme, digital-rights management technologies could
control how often you listen to a song you’ve downloaded, where
that song gets stored, whether you can share that song with some-
one else, and how long you have the right to listen. The technology
could enable almost any form of control the copyright owner could

Copyright law supports this control in the digital age because
of a deceptively simple fact about the architecture of copyright
law, and the architecture of digital technology. The law regulates
“reproductions” or “copies.” But every time you use a creative work
in a digital context, the technology is making a copy. When you
“read” an electronic book, the machine is copying the text of the
book from your hard drive, or from a hard drive on a network, to
the memory in your computer. That “copy” triggers copyright law.
When you play a CD on your computer, the recording gets copied
into memory on its way to your headphones or speakers. No matter
what you do, your actions trigger the law of copyright. Every action
must then be justified as either licensed or “fair use.”

Because every use triggers the law of copyright, I say that copy-
right law supports the technologies used to implement an RO cul-
ture. For if DRM says you can read an e-book only twice, all that
the technology is doing is implementing a right that copyright law
gives the copyright owner. Copyright law is triggered every time
you read an e-book. Unless protected by “fair use,” each time you
read the e-book, you need permission from the copyright owner.

It’s critical to recognize, however, that this control is radically
greater than the control the law of copyright gave a copyright owner
in the analog world. And this change in the scope of control came
not from Congress deciding that the copyright owner needed more
control. The change came instead because of a change in the plat-
form through which we gain access to our culture. Technological
changes dramatically increased, and the scope of control that the
law gave copyright owners over the use of creative work increased

In the physical world, copyright law gives the copyright owner
of a book no legal control over how many times you read that book.
That is because when you read a book in real space, that “reading”
does not produce a copy. And because copyright law is not triggered,
no one needs any permission to read the book, lend the book, sell
the book, or use the book to impress his or her friends. In the physi-
cal world, the law of copyright is triggered when you take the book
to a copy shop and make fifty copies for your friends—no doubt a
possible use, but not an ordinary use. Ordinary uses of the book are
free of the regulation of the law. Ordinary uses are unregulated.

But in the digital world, the same acts are differently regulated.
To share a book requires permission. To read a book requires per-
mission. To copy a paragraph to insert into a term paper requires
permission. All the ordinary uses of a creative work are now regu-
lated because all the ordinary uses trigger copyright law—because,
again, any use is a copy.18

RO culture in the digital age is thus open to control in a way
that was never possible in the analog age. The law regulates more.
Technology can regulate more effectively. Technology can con-
trol every use. The law ratifies the control that technology would
impose over every use. To the extent the copyright owner wants,
and subject to “fair use,” the use of his copyrighted work in digital
space can be perfectly controlled. In this sense, the law supports RO
culture more than it ever has.

The law’s relationship to RW culture is different. For again,
the very act of rewriting in a digital context produces a copy; that
copy triggers the law of copyright. Once triggered, the law requires
either a license or a valid claim of “fair use.” Licenses are scarce;
defending a claim of “fair use” is expensive. By default, RW use
violates copyright law. RW culture is thus presumptively illegal.

For most of American history it was extraordinarily rare for
ordinary citizens to trigger copyright law. For most of American
history, the practice of RW culture would have flown under the
radar of this form of commercial regulation. The reason again was
a combination of the architecture of copyright law and the technol-
ogies of culture. From 1790 until 1909, copyright law didn’t regulate
“copies.” Its core regulation was of “printing, reprinting, publishing
and vending.” People engaged in RW culture were not “printing,
reprinting, publishing and vending.” This core was expanded in
1870, when the law added the regulation of what we call derivative
works to its scope. But even then, the regulation was not general. It
was specific to particular activities, and these activities were again
primarily commercial. “By 1873,” writes Professor Tony Reese, “the
subject matter of copyright protection included ‘any book, map,
chart, dramatic or musical composition, engraving, cut, print, or
photograph or negative thereof, or . . . painting, drawing, chromo,
statue, statuary, and . . . models or designs intended to be perfected
as works of the fine arts.’ ”19 Again, not the sort of things that ordi-
nary RW creators do.

In 1909, the law changed. For the first time, the word “copy” was
used generally to refer to the rights of any copyright owner, includ-
ing the copyright owner of books. Until that time, the exclusive
right to “copy” was limited to works such as statues, but not gener-
ally to works such as books. (Thus, to “copy” a statue required the
permission of the copyright owner, but to “copy” a book did not.)
But the revisers of the 1909 act forgot this distinction and granted
copyright owners “the semblance of a right to an activity that was
to have increasing importance in the new century.”20 Over time, the
word began to reach every technology that “cop[ied].” Thus, as the
range of technologies that enabled people to “copy” increased, so
too did the effective scope of regulation increase.21

This automatic expansion in regulation was not really remarked
upon by Congress. Congress didn’t intend the expansion. Neither
did it stop it. Those who benefited from this expansion were happy
for the benefit. Those who might potentially be harmed by it failed
to notice that the contours of their freedom—their RW freedom—
were narrowing.

There were, of course, important exceptions. In the late 1960s,
Xerox gave us a technology to copy texts. In the mid-1970s, tech-
nologists gave consumers a device designed to record television
shows. That device thus “copied” copyrighted content without per-
mission of the content owner. In 1976, Disney and Universal filed
a lawsuit against the maker of that device, Sony. Eight years later,
the Supreme Court excused the copying, finding that consumers’
actions were protected by the doctrine of “fair use.”22

Similarly, in the 1980s there was an explosion of devices for
copying cassette tapes. The content owners complained that people
were using these devices to copy copyrighted content without the
permission of the copyright owner. Congress ordered an exten-
sive study of the practice. That study concluded that 40 percent of
people ten and over had tape-recorded music in the past year; that
the tapers had a greater interest in music than nontapers did; that
most were “place-shifting”—“shifting” the “place” the copyrighted
material would be played; that taping displaced some sales and
inspired others; and that both tapers and nontapers believed “that
it was acceptable to copy a prerecorded item for one’s own use or to
give to a friend.”23

Each of these conflicts was not really a conflict with the core
of RW culture. Mixtapes are perhaps an exception—many of my
friends growing up thought the creativity in the selection was
among the most difficult, and important, for anyone who knows
anything about popular culture. But these weren’t really the target
of the copyright owners. Their concern instead was the use of these
technologies to displace a market they thought they owned. It was
technology competing with the protection of copyright. Technol-
ogy, in other words, competing with RO culture. Despite this com-
petition, the technology was largely left alone.

When RW culture moves to the Net, however, things change
dramatically. First, digital technologies, as I’ve already described,
explode the demand for RW culture. More and more people use
technology to say things, and not simply with words. Music is
remixed; video mash-ups proliferate; blogs begin to build a culture
around the idea of talking back.

Second, digital technologies also change how RW culture and
copyright interact. Because every use of creative work technically
produces a copy, every use of creative work technically triggers
copyright law. And while many of these uses might be fair use,
or uses licensed, expressly or implicitly, by the copyright owner,
the critical point to recognize is that this is still a vast change to
the history of American copyright law. For the first time, the law
regulates ordinary citizens generally. For the first time, it reaches
beyond the professional to control the amateur—to subject the
amateur to a control by the law that the law historically reserved to

This is the most important point to recognize about the rela-
tionship between the law and RW culture. For the first time, the
law reaches and regulates this culture. Not because Congress delib-
erated and decided that this form of creativity needed regulation,
but simply because the architecture of copyright law interacted with
the architecture of digital technology to produce a massive expan-
sion in the reach of the law.

This change is also reflected further in professional culture itself.
Think, for instance, about how the law regulates music. Perhaps
the most distinctive American form of music is jazz. Jazz musi-
cians create by building upon the creativity of others before. They
listen to the work of others. They remake it. “Improvisation is a key
element of the form.” Indeed, the genre is known for its “collective
improvisation.”24 Great jazz musicians are known for their ability
to improvise. Louis Armstrong “essentially re-composed pop-tunes
he played.”25

A modern equivalent to jazz is called by some “laptop music,”
by others simply “sampling.” Musicians create this music by taking
the sound recordings of other musicians and remixing them. Girl
Talk is an example of this. Dean Gray, Shitmat, 9th Wonder, and
Doormouse are others.

The law was fairly relaxed about the creativity of jazz musi-
cians.26 But the law is not at all relaxed about the creativity of
modern laptop music. In a series of cases beginning in the 1980s,
samplers have faced an increasingly hostile judiciary which insists
that any use of a recording requires the permission of the copyright
owner. The point of this series came in 2004, when the Sixth Circuit
Court of Appeals held that every sample used in a remixed record-
ing triggered copyright law. There was no “de minimis” excep-
tion to copyright* that would permit samplers to avoid licensing
the sample they used.27 Beginning with hip-hop, which introduced
sampling to popular culture, and continuing through laptop music
today, no creative act would be distributed free of a legal cloud.

You might think that artists would be eager to end this insanity.
In fact, among their lawyers at least, this craziness is a kind of lot-
tery system. An extraordinary effort is devoted by lawyers to iden-
tifying samples used without permission in successful records. The
threat of copyright liability is huge, so the payoff to make litigants
go away is also huge. The system loves the game; the game thus
never ends.

But this is much more than a game. There’s a profound injustice

    * Meaning simply that the amount of “copying” was so small as to not be within the
    scope of copyright law’s concern.

in the difference of the law here, especially as it affects an emerg-
ing class of artists. Why should it be that just when technology is
most encouraging of creativity, the law should be most restrictive?
Why should it be effectively impossible for an artist from Harlem
practicing the form of art of the age to commercialize his creativity
because the costs of negotiating and clearing the rights here are so
incredibly high?

The answer is: for no good reason, save inertia and the forces
that like the world frozen as it is.

Can we imagine a movement that will get us from this world to
a better world? Are we stuck in these dark ages? We’ll think a bit
more about those questions at the end of this book.

The point for now is simply to recognize that the law strongly
favors RO culture while strongly disfavoring RW. Given all the good
RW might do, we as a society should at least decide whether this bias
against RW creativity makes sense and whether it should continue.

                 Lessons About Cultures

I’ve described two cultures of creativity. I’ve argued that both are
important and valuable. Differences exist. In the last chapter, I
described some of those differences. What can we learn from these
two cultures? What lessons can we draw from how they interact?

RO Culture Is Important and Valuable

I’ve had lots of nice things to say about RW culture. That doesn’t
mean there isn’t an equal amount of good to say about RO culture.
In building the Library of Congress, Jefferson hoped, as the library
boasts in its slogan, “to sustain and preserve a universal collection
of knowledge and creativity for future generations.” That access is
important because it teaches us about our past, and about the diver-
sity of culture that lives around us. The first step of learning is lis-
tening. RO culture is essential to that first step.

RO Culture Will Flourish in the Digital Age

For most of our history, universal access was just another Jeffer-
sonian dream. It is now a possibility. As the costs of access drop,
there will be a market incentive to build the biggest “library” in
human history. And like the very best libraries in our past, the job
of this library will be to assure access. Not necessarily for free, for
in many cases, “free” would produce insufficient incentives to build
that access. Instead, RO culture will flourish; more culture will be
accessible more cheaply than at any point in human history.

RW Culture Is A lso Important and Valuable

Yet the history of the Enlightenment is not just the history of teach-
ing kids to read. It is also the history of teaching kids to write. It is
the history of literacy—the capacity to understand, which comes
not just from passively listening, but also from writing. From the
very beginning of human culture, we have taught our kids RW cre-
ativity. We have taught them, that is, how to build upon the culture
around us by making reference to that culture or criticizing it. As
Negativland’s Hosler put it to me: “Of course human beings build
on what came before them in anything they create. That’s just obvi-
ous.” We have encouraged them to build upon it. We have forced
them to acquire a “literacy” about the culture around them. We test
our kids on the basis of that literacy; we reward the “literate” of
every generation. We reward “writing.”

For most of human history, text was the only democratic literacy.
For most of human history, words were the only form of expres-
sion that everyone had access to. The twentieth century gave us an
extraordinary range of new types of “writing.” But until the last
years of that century, none of that “writing” was ever democratized
in the way that text had been. Only a few could go to film school.
Only a relatively few had the resources to learn how to record or
edit. The single most important effect of the “digital revolution”
was that it exploded these historical barriers to teaching. Every
important form of writing has now been democratized. Practically
anyone can learn to write in a wide range of forms. The challenge
now is to enable this learning, not only by building the technologies
it requires, but by assuring the freedom that it requires.

So again, as I encouraged in chapter 2, think a bit about that
freedom. Remember when you learned to write. Remember the act
of quoting. Or incorporating. Or referring. Or criticizing. What
freedoms did you take for granted when you did all of this? Did
you ask permission to quote? Did you notify the target of your
criticism that you were criticizing him? Did you think twice about
your right to dis a movie you saw in a letter to a friend? Were you
ever troubled by quoting Bob Dylan in an essay about war?

The answer to all these questions is of course “no.” We grew up
taking for granted the freedoms we needed to practice our form
of writing. We created, and we shared our creativity with whoever
would read it (our parents and teachers, if we were lucky). We never
questioned the right to create in this way, freely.

Our kids want the same freedom for their forms of writing.
For not just words, but for images, film, and music. The technolo-
gies we give our kids give them a capacity to create that we never
had. We’ve given them a world beyond words. This world is part of
what I’ve called RW culture. It is continuous with what has always
been part of RW culture—the literacy of text. But it is more. It is
the ability for amateurs to create in contexts that before only profes-
sionals ever knew.

Whether RW Culture Flourishes Depends at Least in Part upon the Law

As it exists now, copyright law inhibits these new forms of literacy.
I don’t mean that it stops kids from remixing. No law could ever
do that, any more than a law could stop quoting. Instead, I mean
that the law as it stands now will stanch the development of the
institutions of literacy that are required if this literacy is to spread.
Schools will shy away, since this remix is presumptively illegal.
Businesses will be shy, since rights holders are still eager to use the
law to threaten new uses. Uncertainty about the freedom to engage
in this form of creativity will only stifle the willingness of institu-
tions to help this form of literacy develop. RW culture can’t help
but expand the sense of “writing.” But legal culture will force the
institutions that teach writing to stay far away from this new expres-
sive form.

The Law ’s Current Attitude Is Both Destructive and Self-defeating — to
Values Far More Important Than the Profits of the Culture Industries

We, as a society, can’t kill this new form of creativity. We can only
criminalize it. We can’t stop our kids from using the technologies
we give them to remix the culture around them. We can only drive
that remix underground. We can’t make our kids passive in the way
we were toward the culture around us. We can only make them
“pirates.” So does this criminalization make sense?

Here history has an important lesson. About a decade ago,
scholars and activists began calling for a legislative response to what
we would eventually term “peer-to-peer file sharing.” We did not
call for further penalties for illegal file sharing. Instead, we called
for decriminalization. A wide range of proposals asked Congress
to create a compulsory license for peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing.
Under this license, the act of sharing music, for example, would
not violate any law of copyright. It would instead simply affect how
compensation for file sharing would be shared.

The most ambitious of these proposals was made by Professor
William Fisher at Harvard. Under Fisher’s plan, Congress would
permit, for example, music to be shared freely.28 It would establish
technologies to sample who was getting what. Then, based upon
that evidence of popularity, it would compensate artists for their
creativity through a tax that would be imposed upon digital tech-
nologies in the most efficient way possible. Thus, Madonna would
make more than Lyle Lovett; and Lyle Lovett would make more
than I.

There are plenty of ways to criticize these proposals. While I’ve
made my own, I’ve also criticized many others. But as we look back
over the last ten years and imagine how things would have been
different if, in 1998, Congress had enacted any of these proposals,
several facts become clear.

First, the war on file sharing has been an utter failure. As one
article notes,

    More than 5 billion songs were swapped on peer-to-peer sites [in
    2006] while CD sales, the industry’s core revenue-producing prod-
    uct, continue to decline, dropping about 20 percent this year alone.
    And according to a recent report from Jupiter Research, things are
    only going to get worse. “Young consumers are increasingly shun-
    ning music buying in favor of file-sharing, which is four times
    more popular than digital-music buying among ages 15 to 24,” the
    report notes.29

A picture captures the point much better than words. Using data
provided (generously for free) by BigChampagne Online Media
Measurement, we can graph the average number of p2p users from
August 2002 to October 2006 (see pages 112–13). The gray bar
indicates when the Supreme Court decided MGM v. Grokster, hold-
ing p2p file sharing to be illegal.30 As is plain, whatever the law is
doing, it’s not having much effect upon what p2p users are doing.

Second, had a compulsory license been put in place, artists
would have received more money over the last ten years than they
have. Legal sharing may have stanched some growth in legal sales.
But there was a huge amount of content shared “illegally” that,
under this alternative, would at least have triggered compensation
for artists.

Third, had businesses been free to rely upon these licenses, there
would have been an explosion in innovation around these tech-
nologies. It would not just have been a few who could strike deals
with the ever terrified recording industry. Anyone who had an idea
could have deployed it, consistent with the terms of the compulsory
license. Thus, innovation in content distribution would have been
greater too.

But fourth and most important, had we had a system of com-
pulsory licenses a decade ago, we wouldn’t have a generation of
kids who grew up violating the law. As a recent survey by the mar-
ket research firm NPD Group indicated, “more than two-thirds of
all the music [college students] acquired was obtained illegally.”31
Had the law been changed, when they shared content, their behav-
ior would have been legal. Their behavior would therefore not have
been condemned. They would not have understood themselves to
be “pirates.” Instead, they would have been allowed to lead the sort
of childhood that I did—where what “normal kids did” was not a

Again, I don’t mean this as an argument in favor of decriminal-
izing all currently illegal behavior. Whether or not kids rob banks,
it should be illegal to rob banks. The wrong of rape is increased,
not mitigated, by its frequency. Instead, I’m asking you to weigh
one bad against the other: What our policy makers have done over
the last decade has not actually stopped file sharing; it has not actu-
ally helped a lot of artists; it has not spurred a wide range of innova-
tion. All it has done with certainty is raise a generation of “pirates.”

Weigh that bad against the alternative: if there had been a
compulsory license, artists would have had more money; business
(outside of the recording industry) would have had a greater oppor-
tunity to innovate; and our kids would not have been “pirates.”

Average Simultaneous P2P Users—USA [Image not rendered in text.]

No doubt someone would have lost something in this alternative
scenario. Lawyers for sure. Maybe record companies too. Lawyers
would have missed out on the extraordinary boon to our industry
caused by the litigation surrounding illegal file sharing. Record
companies might have lost out because they would have given up
an exclusive right in favor of compulsory compensation. But even
this loss is uncertain. It is more than plausible that a compulsory
system would have secured for the recording industry more money
than in fact it got.

[Another image not rendered in text.]

I raise this parallel not to endorse peer-to-peer file sharing.
I stand by my position in Free Culture that “piracy” is wrong—
a position I repeated nine times in that book.32 Instead, I raise the
parallel to ask whether we want to make this mistake again. Should
the next ten years be another decade-long war against our kids?
Should we spend more of our resources hiring lawyers and tech-
nologists to build better weapons to wage war against those practic-
ing RW culture? Have we learned nothing from the total failure of
policy that has defined copyright policy over the last decade?

I believe this for the same reason the content industry is so keen
to enforce copyright. As the RIAA’s Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sher-
man explained:

    It’s not just the loss of current sales that concerns us, but the habits
    formed in college that will stay with these students for a lifetime.
    This is a teachable moment—an opportunity to educate these
    particular students about the importance of music in their lives
    and the importance of respecting and valuing music as intellec-
    tual property.33

Exactly right. So what rules should we work so hard to enforce?

The argument in favor of reforming our legal attitude toward
remixing is a thousand times stronger than in the context of p2p
file sharing: this is a matter of literacy. We should encourage the
spread of literacy here, at least so long as it doesn’t stifle other forms
of creativity. There is no plausible argument that allowing kids
to remix music is going to hurt anyone. Until someone can show
that it will, the law should simply get out of the way. We need to
decriminalize creativity before we further criminalize a generation
of our kids.

                                     PART TWO

In the first part of this book, I described two cultures: one made to be con-
sumed (RO), the other made to be remade (RW). Both cultures were part
of our past: RW creativity from the dawn of human culture, RO from
the birth of technology to capture and spread tokens of culture. Both,
I’ve argued, will be part of our future: The Internet will enable a more
vibrant RO culture. It will also enable a more expansive RW culture.

But to see just how both futures will unfold, we need to think a bit
less about culture, more about economics. Nothing gets built unless there
are the incentives to build it. And while the incentives to build RO cul-
ture are clear enough, what builds RW culture? Who will invest in its
construction? Who’s going to pay for customer support?

In this part, I describe two economies of social production—
commercial and sharing economies— on the way to describing a mix
between these two, an economy I call a “hybrid.” In the sense that I will
describe, we have seen hybrids before. They have been part of our his-
tory. But their significance is now, potentially at least, radically increased.
Every interesting Internet business will be a hybrid. Understanding how,
and how to do it well, will become the most important challenge for
Internet entrepreneurs.

               TWO ECONOMIES:

An “economy” is a practice of exchange that sustains itself, or
is sustained, through time. A “practice of exchange.” For

    1. A gives something to B.
    2. B (directly or indirectly) gives something back to A.
    3. Repeat.

The “something” could have tangible, economic value—money,
or hours of labor. Or it could be intangible, and without ordinary
economic value—friendship, or helping a neighbor with a flat tire.
In either case, the trade occurs within an “economy” when it is a
regular practice of social interaction. People participate within that
economy so long as they get enough back relative to what they give.
This doesn’t mean everyone gets back exactly what he or she con-
tributes (or more): A talented lawyer working for a public-interest-
housing law firm gives more than her meager salary returns. (Meet
my wife.) But it does mean that people operating within an econ-
omy evaluate the exchange, how much they get versus how much
they give, and that we should expect they will continue in that
economy so long as they get enough from the exchange relative to
what they give.

“Economies” in this sense differ in many ways. In the story that
follows, however, I radically and crudely simplify these differences
to speak about three types of economies only: a commercial econ-
omy, a sharing economy, and a hybrid of the two.

Following the work of many, but in particular of Harvard pro-
fessor Yochai Benkler,1 by a “commercial economy,” I mean an
economy in which money or “price” is a central term of the ordi-
nary, or normal, exchange. In this sense, your local record store is
part of a commercial economy. You enter and find the latest Lyle
Lovett CD. You buy it in exchange for $18. The exchange is defined
in terms of the price. This does not mean price is the only term, or
even the most important term. But it does mean that there is noth-
ing peculiar about price being a term. There’s nothing inappropri-
ate about insisting upon that cash, or making access to the product
available only in return for cash.

A “sharing economy” is different. Of all the possible terms of
exchange within a sharing economy, the single term that isn’t appro-
priate is money. You can demand that a friend spend more time
with you, and the relationship is still a friendship. If you demand
that he pay you for the time you spend with him, the relationship is
no longer a friendship.

So, again, there’s nothing odd about your local Wal-Mart insist-
ing that you give them $2.50 for a bottle of juice. You might not
like that demand; you might well think $2.00 is the right price. But
there’s nothing inappropriate about Wal-Mart’s demand. In our
culture at least, that’s just the way a Wal-Mart is supposed to deal
with us.

Nor is there anything odd about a softball team demanding that
every member make at least ten of the twelve games in a season. Again,
you might not like the demand; you might wish you could miss four
rather than just two games. But there’s nothing inappropriate about
the team’s demand. Indeed, it is a perfectly reasonable way to make
sure participants within this sharing economy actually participate.

But it would be very odd if a friend apologized for missing lunch
and offered you $50 to make it up. And it would be very, very odd if
your girlfriend, at the end of a great date, offered you $500 to spend
the night. Or if Wal-Mart asked all customers to “pitch in and help
Wal-Mart by sweeping at least one aisle each time you shop.” Or if
McDonald’s asked you to “help out” by promising to buy hamburg-
ers at least once a month. Money in the sharing economy is not just
inappropriate; it is poisonous. And “helping out” is not just rare in a
commercial economy. It is downright weird.

Viewed like this, we all live in many different commercial and
sharing economies, all at the same time. These economies comple-
ment one another, and our lives are richer because of this diversity. No
society could survive with just one or the other. No society should try.

The Internet has many examples of commercial and sharing
economies. In this chapter, we consider examples of both. But the
aim throughout this chapter is simply preliminary: to set up a richer
understanding of a much more interesting phenomenon—the
hybrid—that we’ll consider in the chapter that follows.

                        Commercial Economies

My wife (to be) and I were at an Italian restaurant. In Italy. I
ordered pasta with a mushroom sauce. She ordered pasta with a
tomato sauce. After the waiter served us, he offered my wife some
Parmesan cheese. She accepted. He grated the cheese for her and
then began to leave. I stopped him and said I too wanted Parmesan

    “No,” he told me.
    “No?” I asked.
    “No,” he said again. “The cheese would overwhelm the taste of
    the mushrooms.”
    Startled a bit, I hesitated. “But what if I want the taste
    “That’s not my concern,” he informed me, and walked away.

You learn a great deal about who you are by noticing the things
that enrage you, and then working out just why. This was one of those
moments for me. What “right” did this waiter have to interfere with
my eating my pasta as I wanted? It wasn’t as if I was going to com-
plain to the locals about the taste of the pasta. Nor was I likely ever
to return to this village or this restaurant. Indeed, to the contrary,
the exchange made me resolve never to return to this restaurant. The
waiter was out of line. I would take my business elsewhere.

My reaction came from a certain view I held (unnoticed until
that moment) of my relationship to a restaurant. It was, in the sense
I mean in this chapter, for me simply a “commercial” relationship.
This was a transaction within a “commercial economy.” Had the
waiter said, “Sure, extra cheese costs an extra euro (for both you
and your wife),” that would have been totally appropriate. Price
is how we, in commercial economies, negotiate things. If there’s
something I want that they want to ration, then let them use the
market’s most ubiquitous tool for rationing—money. The business
of business is to make money—not, as this waiter saw it, to avoid
insulting mushroom-strewn pasta.

Of course, there’s nothing natural or necessarily right about my
view of my relationship to this beautiful Italian restaurant. But I
take it that anyone living within a modern commercial economy
would have the same or a similar response in at least some part of
the commercial economy. Imagine the dry cleaner who refused to
clean an old sweater: “That design went out ages ago.” Or a cof-
fee shop that insisted, “Tell us about your day!” before the barista
would take your order. (“It’s the friendly way to be!” the shop
insists.) All of us, somewhere in our life, relish the simplicity of the
market. And some of us (myself included) yearn for ways to make
more of our life governed by the simple logic of markets.

If we’re in a place where we feel such simplicity should reign,
where we’re not insulted when someone mentions money, where
we meter the relationship with price, then we’re within a “com-
mercial economy.” The market is the engine that drives this com-
mercial economy; if well designed (meaning regulated to protect
participants from force or fraud), the market is an extraordinary
technology for producing and spreading wealth. The commer-
cial economy is a central part of modern life; it has contributed to
human well-being perhaps more than any other institution created
by humankind. We are well beyond the point where it makes sense
to oppose the flourishing of the market.

A critical part of the Internet is just such a commercial econ-
omy. Indeed, for some, it is the most important part. The Internet
has caused an explosion in the opportunities for business to make
money by making old businesses work better. It has also made pos-
sible new businesses that before the Net weren’t even conceivable.
And while we’re just beginning to get a clear sense of what makes
business prosper on the Internet, we can already see that this new
bit of social infrastructure offers a staggering potential for growth
and innovation. In 1994, there were 1,700 dot-com domain names.
Twelve years later, there were more than 30 million.2 There was
no category called the “e-commerce sector” in 1994. In 2005, the
e-commerce sector was estimated to be worth $2.4 trillion: $1.266
billion for manufacturing, $945 billion for wholesale, $93 billion for
retail, and $96 billion for selected service industries.3

What makes the Internet’s commercial economy work? Or why
does it work so well, or differently from real-space economies? In
the balance of this section, we will consider a few key features that
explain its success. My aim is saliance, not comprehensiveness. I
want only to draw out a few features that will make the relation-
ships among commercial and sharing economies clear.

          Three Successes from the Internet’s
                 Commercial Economy

Begin with some familiar examples of Internet success, from which
we can draw some lessons of success.

Net flix

More than thirty years ago, in November 1976, America’s film
industry launched a war against a technology that was quickly
becoming ubiquitous: the (what we now call) VCR. The VCR had
been designed to record programming “off air.” Most of that pro-
gramming was copyrighted. Copying copyrighted works without
the permission of the copyright holder was, Universal and Disney
claimed, a crime. The VCR, they thus argued, was a tool designed
to enable a crime.

Eight years later, the Supreme Court disagreed.4 By a close
vote, the Court held that the VCR itself was not illegal, because
although it could be used to infringe, it was also “capable of a sub-
stantial noninfringing use.” At least some of the copyright owners,
the Court noted, whose work would be taped were happy that it
would be taped. (Mr. Rogers was the Court’s favorite example.)
And for those not happy that their work was being recorded, the
Court held that at least sometimes, this “time-shifting” of content
was a protected “fair use.” These noninfringing uses thus saved the
technology from being banned by copyright law. Hollywood would
have to figure out how to make money despite the technology.

In the thirty years since Hollywood lost that case, it has become
clear just how lucky it was to lose. Video sale and rental revenues
far surpass what the film industry makes in the theater.5 Had the
studios won, it’s not clear just how much the platform of that suc-
cess would have spread.

Blockbuster Video was a key reason losing the war on VCRs was
a victory for Hollywood. For the Blockbusters of the world soon
brought more revenue to Hollywood than its own blockbusters in
theaters did. The store first launched in Dallas in 1985, with eight
thousand tapes and 6,500 titles. Because of the spread of VCRs,
there was a ready infrastructure to support Blockbuster’s business.
Two years later there were fifteen stores and twenty franchises. By
mid-1989 there were more than seven hundred stores. At the end of
that year there were one thousand stores.6

Blockbuster was a brilliant innovation in the distribution of
film. But it had important drawbacks. However convenient it
made finding a film, you still had to go to the Blockbuster and
browse through endless fluorescent-lit aisles of videos to find it.
And however endless those aisles of videos, each Blockbuster
could in fact carry a relatively small number of films. There was
thus more choice than TV, and on your own schedule. But not
endless choice. And though convenient, the system still had its

In 1997, Reed Hastings had a better idea for delivering video
to consumers. Rather than a harshly lit store at a strip mall, Hast-
ings thought, the Internet would be a pretty good way to browse
for films. Indeed, using smart preference-matching technologies,
the Internet would be a better way to browse for film because the
machine would help you find what in fact you wanted. He thus
launched one of the Internet’s most famous success stories: Netflix.
Customers paid Netflix a flat monthly fee; in exchange, they could
rent DVDs of favorite films; those DVDs were sent through the
mail, with simple return envelopes included; the monthly subscrip-
tion entitled the customer to hold a fixed number of DVDs. Thus,
if you had a three-DVD subscription, you paid about $17 a month.
You ordered three movies that you wanted to see, and Netflix sent
them. You could hold on to these movies for as long as you wanted
(hence, no late fees). And when you returned one, the next on
your queue was sent. The only inconvenience of this system was
that you had to plan ahead a bit. The great advantage was that if
you planned a bit in advance, the films would be waiting at home
whenever you wanted to watch them.

Netflix has radically changed the video rental market. The
best evidence of its effect is that in 2004, Blockbuster changed its
business model to mirror Netflix’s to better compete.7 Wal-Mart’s
service was taken over by Netflix in 2005.8 Hastings’s model thus
became the industry standard.


Perhaps the first dramatically successful example of Internet com-
merce began as a simple bookstore. Founded in 1994 (as Cadabra
.com) and launched in 1995 (as, Amazon set out to
do more efficiently what bookstores had always sought to do: sell
books. When the online store opened, it had only two thousand
titles in stock. But within the first month it had orders from all
fifty states and from forty-five countries outside the United States.
Sales in 1997 reached approximately $150 million. Two years later,
sales were $1.6 billion. Two years after that, because of third-party
deals with companies such as Target and America Online, sales
exceeded $3 billion. In 2003 the company crossed $5 billion. In 2006
sales totaled more than $10 billion.9

Once again, this store had advantages very similar to the
advantages of Netflix. Rather than browsing a Barnes & Noble
superstore, the customer used his computer to see what books there
were to buy. And rather than the customer using his car to collect
the books he wanted, Amazon used the U.S. Postal Service. Ama-
zon founder Jeff Bezos’s bet was that the convenience of browsing
would outweigh the delay in receipt. More important, Amazon
could far surpass any bricks-and-mortar store in the size of its

Amazon’s success, however, didn’t come naturally. The com-
pany has been relentless in building innovation to drive sales. In
2003 the company launched the Amazon Associates program,
which enabled independent sites to become sellers for Amazon.
The Associates earn revenue from referrals to Amazon. In 2005 it
launched Amazon Connect, which enabled authors to post remarks
on the book pages for their books. In 2006 the company launched
Amazon S3, offering high-bandwidth storage and distribution for
large digital objects. In January 2007 the company began Ama-
pedia, “a collaborative wiki for user-generated content related to
‘the products you like the most.’ ”10 In the decade since Amazon
launched, it has delivered to the market an extraordinary range of
innovation. Everything it does is aimed to drive sales of its prod-
ucts more efficiently.

One of the techniques that Amazon uses mirrors the technique
of the Internet generally: Amazon has opened its platform to allow
others to innovate in new ways to build value out of Amazon’s data-
base. Through a suite of tools called Amazon Web Services (AWS),
Amazon enables developers to build products that integrate directly
into Amazon’s database. For example, a developer named Jim Bian-
colo used AWS to build a free Web tool to track the price difference
between new products and used products (plus shipping). And a
company called TouchGraph used AWS to build a product browser
that would show the links between related products. Enter Cass
Sunstein’s, for example, and you’ll see all the books in Amazon that
relate to Sunstein’s books in subject and citation.

Amazon sells some of these AWS services. Some it leaves
free. But it develops these services if it believes such development
will drive the sales of its products, and perhaps even teach Ama-
zon something about how to better offer its products. Of course,
it ultimately controls the platform. What others add, Amazon
can take away. But in a limited way, the platform invites innova-
tion from others. That innovation rewards others and Amazon


Without a doubt, the most famous example of Internet success is
Google. Founded at Stanford by two students (the first URL was, the company radically improved the
effectiveness of Internet searches. Rather than selling placement
(which can often corrupt the results) or relying upon humans to
index (which would be impossible given the vast scale of the Inter-
net), the first Google algorithms ordered search results based upon
how the Net linked to the results—a process called PageRank,
referring not to “page” as in Web page, but “Page” as in Larry Page,
Google cofounder and developer of the technique.11 If many Web
sites linked to a particular site, that site would be ranked higher in
the returned list than another Web site that had few links. Google
thus built upon the knowledge the Web revealed to deliver back
to the Web a product of extraordinary value. The company was
founded in 1998. In 2005 its market capitalization was $113 billion;
in July 2007 it had risen to $169 billion.12

One might well say that all of Google’s value gets built upon
other people’s creativity. Google’s index is built by searching and
indexing content others have made available on the Web. As I’ve
described, the original algorithm built its recommendations upon
the links it found already existing on the Web; later, the algorithm
also adjusted its recommendations based upon how people responded
to the results Google returned. In all of these cases, the value Google
creates comes from the value others have already created.

Some draw a downright foolish conclusion from the fact that
Google’s value gets built upon other people’s content. Andrew
Keen, for example, a favorite from chapter 5, writes, “Google is a
parasite; it creates no content of its own.”13

But in the same sense you could say that all of the value in the
Mona Lisa comes from the paint, that Leonardo da Vinci was just a
“parasite” upon the hard work of the paint makers. That statement
is true in the sense that but for the paint, there would be no Mona
Lisa. But it is false if it suggests that da Vinci wasn’t responsible for
the great value the Mona Lisa is.

Like Amazon, Google also offers its tools as a platform for oth-
ers to build upon. We’ll see this more below as we consider Google
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). And more successfully
than anyone, Google has built an advertising business into the heart
of technology. Web pages can be served with very smartly selected ads;
users can buy searches in Google to promote their own products.

The complete range of Google products is vast. But one feature of
all of them is central to the argument I want to make here. Practi-
cally everything Google offers helps Google build an extraordinary
database of knowledge about what people want, and how those
wants relate to the Web. Every click you make in the Google uni-
verse adds to that database. With each click, Google gets smarter.

                     Three Keys to These
                      Three Successes

These familiar stories of Internet success reveal three keys to suc-
cess in this digital economy.

Long Tails

The first of these three is also perhaps the most famous. Each of
these three Internet successes takes advantage of a principle that
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos recognized in 1995, and that Wired’s editor
in chief, Chris Anderson, formalized in 2005 in his book The Long

The Long Tail principle (LTP) says that as the cost of inven-
tory falls, the efficient range of inventory rises. And as transaction
costs generally fall to zero, the efficient inventory rises to infinity.
Put differently, the less it costs to hold a particular book or DVD
in inventory, the more books or DVDs a particular company can
profitably hold. Thus, Amazon can offer its customers more books
than any bricks-and-mortar store could, since it can store these
books efficiently at inventory locations around the country. And
more important, a big share of Amazon’s profits come from titles
that are unavailable anywhere else. Chris Anderson estimated that
25 percent of Amazon’s sales come from its tail (where the tail rep-
resents products not available in a bricks-and-mortar store). More
generally, the current data at Rhapsody, Netflix, and Amazon show
that the tail amounts to between 21% and 40% of the market.15
Netflix profits in the same way. Netflix offers seventy-five thousand
titles today (about twelve thousand in 2002) in more than two hun-
dred genres on its Web site. Blockbuster offered seven thousand to
eight thousand in 2002.16

The Long Tail dynamic benefits those whose work lives in the
niche. A wider diversity of films and books is available now than
ever before in the history of culture. The low cost of inventory
means wider choice. Wider choice is a great benefit for those whose
tastes are different.17

Those who doubt the significance of the Long Tail are quick
to argue that the amount of commerce generated in the Long Tail
is small relative to the market generally. Anderson calculates 25
percent of Amazon’s sales come from its tail; but the Wall Street
Journal’s Lee Gomes comments, “[U]sing another analysis of those
numbers . . . you can show that 2.7% of Amazon’s titles produce a
whopping 75% of its revenues.”18

But this criticism misses two important points. First, all the
excitement in a market is action at the margin. Like with runners
in a 100-meter dash, the difference between first and last place may
be just .02 seconds. But that is the difference that matters, and the
difference produced by sales in the Long Tail will matter lots to
companies struggling to compete.

Second, and more important, the breadth of this market will
support a diversity of creativity that can’t help but inspire a wider
range of creators. For reasons at the core of this book, inspiring
more creativity is more important than whether you or I like the
creativity we’ve inspired.

Perhaps the best evidence of this comes from another increas-
ingly successful example of this Internet economy, launched by
one of the key entrepreneurs changing an operating system called
Linux from a hobby to a business: Red Hat and its cofounder Rob-
ert Young. After Red Hat went public in 1999, Young moved on to
start his next great idea: Lulu Inc., a technology company that helps
people “publish and sell any kind of digital content.”

Lulu’s aim is to out-Amazon Amazon, to “put all the books in a
bookstore that can’t fit on Amazon.”19 The market is not the niche
that Amazon’s Long Tail serves, but the “small niche market” that
is beyond even Amazon’s reach. As Young told me, “Amazon’s busi-
ness model is built around the business model of the existing book-
publishing industry. Lulu’s business model is a completely different
Internet-based business model that . . . doesn’t even look at what the
publishing industry does.”

Lulu does this by working hard to educate authors about how
best to write to compete. “If you’re going to write a detective novel,”
Young explained to me, “that competes with Agatha Christie, fig-
ure out what your hook is.” “Why should your detective novel sell?”
Lulu asks its authors. “Is there something unique about it?”

Lulu’s aim is not to spread free culture, if that means culture
you don’t have to pay for.20 “We think sharing is easy,” Young told
me. “What’s difficult is empowering people to actually get paid for
content they are producing.” Lulu focuses not on all of the “ninety-
nine out of a hundred” authors who get rejected by the traditional
publishing market. Instead, it focuses on the “forty-nine out of a
hundred”: people who “actually have something valuable to say and
should have a market.” These are people who are

    writing for too small a market or they’re writing another book
    on a subject that the publishers have already published a book on.
    Either way, the publisher doesn’t want it because he doesn’t see
    any profit in it. Not . . . because it’s a bad book. He admits it’s a
    valuable book. It’s just he doesn’t want it because he’s already got
    two other books on [for example] programming in Java. So he
    doesn’t want a third.

Once again, on the margin, what will make Lulu successful where
vanity presses were not is the efficiency with which creative work
can be produced and distributed way down the Long Tail. Young
is fanatical about the challenge in selling down the tail. There’s
nothing automatic. It takes hard work by both Lulu and the author.
Success gets made; no “Long Tail magic” makes it for anyone.

But the consequence of his success will be a much wider range
of people creating. And this is the most important consequence for
society generally. Just as Jefferson romanticized the yeoman farmer
working a small plot of land in an economy disciplined by hard work
and careful planning, just as Sousa romanticized the amateur musi-
cian, I mean to romanticize the yeoman creator. In each case, the
skeptic could argue that the product is better produced elsewhere—
that large farms are more efficient, or that filters on publishing mean
published works are better. But in each case, the skeptic misses
something critically important: how the discipline of the yeoman’s
life changes him or her as a citizen. The Long Tail enables a wider
range of people to speak. Whatever they say, that’s a very good thing.
Speaking teaches the speaker even if it just makes noise.

                        Little Brother

The Long Tail alone, however, is not enough to explain the great
success of the Amazons/Netflixes/Googles of the world. It’s not
enough that stuff is simply available. There must also be an effi-
cient way to match customers to the stuff in the Long Tail. I may
well want to buy a book that only five hundred others in the world
would want to buy. But I’m not about to sift through the 10 million
other books on Amazon’s shelf to find that one that I’d be eager to
buy. Amazon (and Netflix and Google) have got to do that for me.
And each of these companies does it well by, in a phrase, spying on
my every move. An efficient Little Brother (a relative of Orwell’s
Big Brother) learns what I’m likely to want and then recommends
new things to me based upon what he has learned.

Collecting data about customers is, of course, nothing new. But
the key to the efficiency of this Little Brother is that it builds upon a
principle described best by VisiCalc co-inventor Dan Bricklin in an
essay called “The Cornucopia of the Commons.”21

Bricklin’s essay was inspired by a quibble he had with those
who said Napster was so successful because it was a peer-to-peer
technology. Napster’s success, he argued, had nothing to do with
peer-to-peer. First, the system was not in fact a “peer-to-peer” tech-
nology. Second, not using a p2p architecture may well have been a
better technical strategy to serving the ends that Napster sought.

Bricklin argued that Napster’s success came not from a techni-
cal design, but from an architecture that produced value as a by-
product of people getting what they wanted. When you installed
Napster, by default it made shareable the music you had on your
computer. The more people who joined, the better the “database.”
And as a Napster user added content to his library by, for exam-
ple, ripping a CD, “creating the copy in the shared music direc-
tory c[ould] be a natural by-product of [his] normal working with
the songs.”22 “Increasing the value of the database by adding more
information is a natural by-product of using the tool for your own
benefit.” “No altruistic sharing motives need be present” to explain
the network’s extraordinary success.

Bricklin made the same point about a service called CD Data-
base (CDDB). CDDB was originally created by volunteers who
wanted a simple way to get track information about their music.
CDs ship with the track identified simply by a number and a total
track time. But by using cryptographic signing technologies, it’s
fairly easy to get a unique signature for every song on any CD.
Using that signature, an Internet database can easily identify which
song is on your CD if that song’s signature has already been entered
onto the database along with information about the song’s name,
artist, etc. Thus, by getting people to add that information into the
database, the database becomes more valuable to everyone.

Notice a corollary to Bricklin’s design law suggested by a
commenter on Bricklin’s original essay, Evan Williams: Design
the database so people use the data they enter, thus increasing their
incentive to get it right.23 Apple’s iTunes does that right now. If
you put a CD into your iTunes-enabled computer, chances are it
launches iTunes. And if iTunes is connected to the Internet, iTunes
then compares the track information from the CD with the (now)
Gracenote CD database. If it finds the CD, then it substitutes the
uninteresting “Track 01, Track 02” titles provided by the CD itself
with the artist and track information. But if it doesn’t find the track
information, then it informs you, and invites you to enter the data

Once you’ve entered the data, iTunes then gives you a simple way
to send that data to Gracenote. Gracenote gets to choose whether
to accept the submission or not, but the point is, Gracenote knows
(because it is filtering the input through services like this) that it’s
likely the data you’ve entered is valid. It’s a hassle to enter the data
in the first place; it would be a real hassle to enter false data, submit
it, and then enter the real data. And no doubt, Gracenote can hold
inputs till it gets corroboration.

The critical point again is that the design of Gracenote elicits
the valuable data, not any particular love for Gracenote or Apple.
The design “add[s] . . . value [to] the database without [adding] any
extra work [to the user.]”24

Perhaps the best example of this kind of by-product value cre-
ation (in theory at least; the lawyers never allowed this system to get
going) was the aspiration of the company sued into the Dark Ages, Michael Robertson, the company’s founder, wanted to
remake the world of music production by finding a better way to
market new bands to existing customers. A strong believer in the
efficacy of Little Brother, Robertson thought the best way to market
is to understand your customers perfectly. And one way to under-
stand your customers perfectly (or as perfectly as humans can) is to
see what stuff they already own.

Robertson had a brilliant, Cornucopia of the Commons way to
learn just this. He gave the customers something they wanted in
exchange for them giving him something he needed.

The service he gave them was called It promised
to give customers access to “their music” wherever they were. To do
this, customers would simply need to show what “their
music” was. The customer would submit a CD that she (presump-
tively) owned to a program called Beam-it. Beam-it would identify
the CD and report its identity to would then
give the user access to that music wherever she was (on the Net at
least). Thus, in exchange for learning what music customers had, gave those customers access to their music everywhere.
And then, using the complex of preference data would
collect, the company could predict which of its own catalog its cus-
tomers were likely to love. So if it saw that I liked Lyle Lovett, and
then saw that I liked one of its new artists too, then it would have
a good reason to try to promote that new artist to others who liked
Lyle Lovett. (Of course, the real algorithm was much more com-
plex than this; but that’s the basic idea.)

Once again, this design would work because it asked nothing
more of its customers than the ordinary effort the customers would
expend to get what they wanted. It would thus efficiently gather the
data necessary to make the business work. And this ability to gather
this data efficiently is a key reason Internet businesses can beat their
bricks-and-mortar equivalents. Just think of the revolt there would
be if Barnes & Noble superstores had clerks following you around,
recording what books you looked at and which you bought. Yet
this is precisely what Amazon can do, simply by designing its sys-
tem well.

All three of my examples of Internet successes build upon the
Bricklin insight to feed Little Brother, none perhaps as comprehen-
sively as Google. Every Google product is designed to give a user
what he or she wants and, at the same time, to gather data that
Google needs. You don’t have a choice about helping Google when
you use Google’s search engine. Your search is a gift to the com-
pany as well as something valuable to you. The company efficiently
serves you a product, and very efficiently learns something in the

There are many who are troubled by Little Brother. Professor
Jeff Rosen once described the terror and outrage he felt at knowing
Amazon was “watching” what books he bought in order to rec-
ommend new books to him. When I heard his description, I real-
ized that one of us was from a different planet. No doubt Amazon
might abuse the data it collects. But also, no doubt, it has a huge
incentive not to. (Unlike the U.S. government, if Amazon screws
up, I can take my business elsewhere.) Anyway, it’s not as if Jeff
Bezos is reading my (almost daily) orders. Some computer some-
where is simply responding to input collected from me. And while
I might care lots about what my neighbors, or students, or friends
think about me, I don’t care a whit about what some computer
thinks about my tastes.

This is not to say we shouldn’t be concerned with how these data
might be used. When the United States government demanded
that Google provide it with search queries relating to pornography
in the context of the government’s defense of the Child Online Pro-
tection Act, Google fought the demand fiercely in court, no doubt
in part because it didn’t want its users to think that their every
search might be made available to the government.25 Likewise, the
company has recently taken steps to partially anonymize the data
it holds, to avoid demands like this in the future and to respond to
harsh criticism by privacy groups that claim Google’s database is in
effect a privacy time bomb.

These are important concerns, but beyond my focus here. They
emphasize, however, a central design feature of the successful Inter-
net economy: build the technology to feed Little Brother with the
mouse droppings of happy customers. (Okay, that sounds gross, but
you get the point.)

LEGO-ized Innovation

The final feature of these three Internet successes that I want to
highlight is ultimately one that generalizes to the Internet itself. All
three of these successful Internet businesses build their value in part
by allowing others to innovate upon their platform. Functionality
gets LEGO-ized: it gets turned into a block that others can add to
their own Web site or their own business.

Netflix does this the least among the three, but it does it none-
theless. (The company was scolded by one of the Net’s leading blog-
gers in 2004 for failing to offer APIs.26 It is slowly responding.) Its
purpose is to “improve the accuracy of predictions about how much
someone is going to love a movie based on their movie preferences.”27
To achieve this end, Netflix runs a “Netflix Prize”—offering a
grand prize of $1 million to anyone who improves Netflix’s own
system by more than 10 percent. To enable this competition to hap-
pen, Netflix shared “a lot of anonymous rating data.” The company
also increasingly offers through RSS feeds access to ranking infor-
mation about its users’ choices.

Amazon does this through its Amazon Web Services. And
Google does this perhaps most of all, through Google APIs that
encourage what has come to be known as the Google mash-up.
Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams describe one example of the
Google mash-up in their book, Wikinomics.

    In May 2005, Paul Rademacher was trying to find a house in Sili-
    con Valley for his job at Dreamworks Animation. He grew weary
    of the piles of Google maps for each and every house he wanted
    to see, so he created a new Web site that cleverly combines listings
    from the online classified-ad service craigslist with Google’s map-
    ping service. Choose a city and a price range, and up pops a map
    with pushpins showing the location and description of each rental.
    He called his creation housingmaps.

    While a useful tool for helping people find a place to live,
    on the surface it hardly seems groundbreaking. And yet, Paul
    Rademacher’s site quickly became a poster child for what the new
    Web is becoming, not because of what it was, but for how it was
    created. Housingmaps was one of the Web’s first mashups.

    Google Map mashups, for example, have emerged to do every-
    thing from pinpointing the locations of particular crime sites, to
    outing celebrity homesteads, to enabling fitness buffs to measure
    their daily running distance. Or, for the price conscious, there’s
    CheapGas, a service that mashes Google Maps and GasBuddy
    together to identify gas stations with the lowest pump prices.28

The integration is often transparent (meaning, in the weird way
that word works, that you can’t see the machinery that links one
service to another company). But it enables the sharing of powerful
functionality across many different sites. Not only does everyone
not have to reinvent the wheel. They also don’t have to build it. Web
services enable the invention and the building to be shared among
many different entities.

This is a pattern that will grow dramatically as more companies fol-
low the same path. When you go to a blog, for example, the comments
might be handled by a special comment company (necessitated by evil
spammers). Or when you answer a poll at a Web site, some other Web
site will actually be running the poll. But visible or not, the effect will
be quite profound. These technologies will radically reduce the cost of
doing business in this increasingly important commercial space.

LEGO-ized innovation is just one component of what Tim
O’Reilly first tagged “Web 2.0.”29 It may ultimately be the most
important. For it demonstrates both how the Internet is uniquely
poised to exploit a general tenet of economics and how the Internet
takes advantage of the principle of democratization that is its hall-
mark. Consider these two in turn.


In 1937 Nobel laureate Ronald Coase was wondering why there
were firms in a free market.30 If the core of a market was that
resources should be allocated by price, why within a firm wasn’t
it price that determined who got what? Within a firm it was the
command of a “boss.” Life inside the firm thus looked more like
the “economic planning” of communism than the competition of a
marketplace. Why? Why weren’t firms built like free markets?

The answer was “transaction costs.” It cost money to go to the
market: time, bargaining costs, costs of capital, etc. Coase reasoned
that this cost would help explain the size of a firm. A firm would go
to the market to obtain a product when doing so was cheaper than
producing the product inside the firm. It would produce the prod-
uct in house when the costs of the market were too high. Yochai
Benkler summarizes the point:

    [P]eople use markets when the gains from doing so, net of transac-
    tion costs, exceed the gains from doing the same thing in a man-
    aged firm, net of the costs of organizing and managing a firm. Firms
    emerge when the opposite is true, and transaction costs can best be
    reduced by bringing an activity into a managed context that requires
    no individual transactions to allocate this resource or that effort.31

It follows from this insight that as transaction costs fall, all
things being equal, the amount of stuff done inside a firm will fall as
well. The firm will outsource more. It will focus its internal work on
the stuff it can do best (meaning more efficiently than the market).

LEGO-ized innovation is simply the architectural instantiation
of this economic point. Through the architecture that makes Web
2.0 possible—including what many have called Web services—the
transaction costs of outsourcing functionality drop dramatically.
Why set up a payment service—exposing yourself and your firm to
the risk of fraud, for example—when you can simply contract with
PayPal? Why run your own servers when a firm can really prom-
ise 24/7 service with its own? Some realms, like national security,
might well want to opt out of this sort of outsourcing. But the obvi-
ous point is that it will make sense not to outsource less and less.


LEGO-ized innovation also teaches us something critical about
innovation on the Internet itself. In each of these Web 2.0 examples,
the platform allows innovation to be, as MIT professor Eric von
Hippel describes, “democratized.” Once again, that term does not
mean innovation gets implemented as strategy was decided in the
early brigades of Soviet soldiers—by gathering around and voting
on the next strategic move. Instead, “democratized” here means
that access to the resource—the right to innovate—has been made
more democratic, that is, made dependent upon your membership
in some community, and not upon a special status or hierarchy
within some company or government.

Amazon and Google democratize innovation when they open
their Web services to people outside Amazon and Google. The
Internet did the same, just better. The original architecture of the
Internet was called “end-to-end,” meaning innovation and intelli-
gence in the network were to be at the edge of the network (the
machines that connect to the network, not the network itself); the
network itself was to be as simple as it could be.32 As a result, anyone
was technically free to innovate for this network. All you needed to
do to innovate for the Internet was to conform your design to the
Internet’s protocols. Once you did that, you were in. There was no
committee or design group or Agency of Internet Innovation that
needed to approve your idea. Nobody could stop you from building
whatever you wanted to build on the Internet. That freedom is a
critical reason for the Internet’s extraordinary success.

          The Character of Commercial Success

You can tell a great deal about the character of a person by asking
him to pick the great companies of an era. Does he pick the success-
ful dinosaurs? Or does he pick the hungry upstarts?

My taste is for the hungry upstarts. One great feature of modern
society is the institutionalized respect we give to processes designed
to destroy the past. The free market is the best example. Democracy
is another. In both cases, constant flux is not the objective (we have
courts to protect private property; we have constitutions to slow the
will of the democracy). But in both cases, the aim is to assure that
the past survives only if it can beat out the future.

The commercial economies of the Internet are a fantastic exam-
ple of exactly this dynamic. The neutral platform of the Internet
democratized technical and commercial innovation. Power was
thus radically shifted. The dropouts of the late 1990s (mainly from
Stanford) beat the dropouts of the middle 1970s (from Harvard):
Google and Yahoo! were nothings when Microsoft was said to
dominate. This success of the new against the power of the old was
made possible by a constitutional commitment in the architecture
of the network to democratize innovation.

No government could have planned these successes, and not just
because governments are unlikely to have the talent of the geniuses
at the likes of a Google or an eBay. Rather, governments couldn’t
plan these successes because governments, at least as we Ameri-
cans know them, are inherently corrupted—not by bribery, not by
greed, but by the reality of campaign financing, which lets them
understand the views of only the last great success, and never the
views of the next great success (which, as yet, lacks the funds to
influence the government).

Nor did these successes come from the dominant business of
the time: Amazon beat (the more established) Barnes & Noble. Net-
flix beat (the innovator) Blockbuster. And Apple beat Dell. That’s
not because Barnes & Noble was stupid and Amazon was smart.
Rather, as Clayton M. Christensen put it in his justly acclaimed
book, The Innovator’s Dilemma:

    Despite their endowments in technology, brand names, manufac-
    turing prowess, management experience, distribution muscle, and
    just plain cash, successful companies populated by good managers
    have a genuinely hard time doing what does not fit their model for
    how to make money. Because disruptive technologies rarely make
    sense during the years when investing in them is most important,
    conventional managerial wisdom at established firms constitutes
    an entry and mobility barrier that entrepreneurs and investors can
    bank on. It is powerful and pervasive.33

Smart for one time does not translate into smart for the next
time. For that, we need new businesses.

The Long Tail, Little Brother, and LEGO-ized innovation
explain part of the success of the Internet economy. They explain
why commerce in the Internet economy can function better (that is,
more efficiently) than commerce in real space.

Yet not all of the value from the Internet comes from this com-
mercial economy. Indeed, a more surprising source has nothing to
do with commerce at all. It is to that part we now turn.

                        Sharing Economies

Sitting next to me on a cross-country flight was a representative
of America’s youth. He was about seventeen, dressed in a compli-
cated mix of black and silver (the metal, not the color). He had a
computer far cooler than mine. And when the chime indicated that
“it is now safe to use approved electronic devices,” he pulled from
the seat pocket in front of us a huge portfolio of DVDs.

All of them—there must have been two hundred at least—
were copies. And as he paged through the binder, my envy grew. I
wanted to know more about his collection and him. So I did some-
thing simply awful, something that I never do: I struck up a con-
versation with the person sitting next to me on an airplane.

I asked Josh (it turned out) about his collection. Was he a film
studies student? Did he work in the industry? He wasn’t. And he
didn’t. He was just a collector. Indeed, a collector of “everything,”
he told me. This was just part of his collection. He had “gigs” of
music as well.

The more we spoke, the more conflicted I became. I admired
his knowledge. He knew his culture better than I knew mine. But
he was, according to the laws of our country, a thief. Or something
like that. In building his collection, he had violated a billion rights.
Don’t start with me about how those rights are unjustly framed,
or too expansive, or outdated. I know all that. I’ve killed forests
explaining all that. All that aside, what this kid was doing was
making my work harder. I fight for “free culture.” My position is
weakened by kids who think all culture should be free.

When the frustration of the conflict became too much, I looked
for an easy escape. Josh had a film I had always wanted to see. My
book was finished. My e-mail was just annoying. I decided I’d ask
to watch one of his DVDs.

“So,” I said, “could I rent one of those from you? How
about $5?”

I’m not writer enough to describe the look of utter disappoint-
ment on his face. Suffice it to say that I had found the single most
potent insult to hurl at Josh.

“What the fuck?” he spit back at me. “You think I do this for
money? I’m happy to lend you one of these. But I don’t take money
for this.”

I had crossed a line. But with that crossing, my respect for Josh
grew. I didn’t agree with how he had acquired his collection. Yet
his rebuke reminded me of a different economy within which
culture also lives. There exists not just the commercial economy,
which meters access on the simple metric of price, but also a sharing
economy, where access to culture is regulated not by price, but by a
complex set of social relations. These social relations are not simple.
Indeed, these relations are insulted by the simplicity of price. And
though I hope not many trade on capital acquired as Josh acquired
his, everyone reading this book has a rich life of relations governed
in a sharing economy, free of the simplicity of price and markets.

If the point isn’t completely obvious, consider some more

 • You have friends. That friendship lives within a certain econ-
   omy. If you only ever ask and never give, the friendship goes
   away. If you meter each interaction and demand a settlement
   after each exchange, the friendship also goes away. Certain
   moves appropriate in some places are inappropriate here. For
   example: “I need to talk to someone. Can I give you $200 for
   an hour-long session?”

 • You have, or have had, or will have, lovers. That relationship
   exists within a complex, sharing economy. The statement
   “Wow, that was great. Here’s $500!” isn’t gratitude in such
   relationships. It might be perversion, though if not matched
   by perversion on the other side, it will likely be terminal to
   the relationship. Lovers make demands on each other. Those
   demands are designed to be complex. Simplify them accord-
   ing to price, and you destroy the relationship. (The other
   side to this story follows directly as well: Prostitution is sex
   within a commercial economy. Both sides seek the simplic-
   ity of cash. Crossing that boundary is the stuff of novels or
   career-launching movies [Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman].)

 • You have neighbors. They (or you) will sometimes need help.
   Once one asked me: “My car battery is dead. Can you give me
   a jump?” After we got his car started, he tried to hand me
   $5. “What the hell, Ted,” I said. “This is what neighbors do.”
   Then I thought, but didn’t say: Anyway, if you were going to
   pay me for this hassle, it’s going to be a lot more than $5.

As with any economy, the sharing economy is built upon exchange.
And as with any exchange that survives over time, it must, on bal-
ance, benefit those who remain within that economy. When it
doesn’t, people leave. Or at least they should (think about the bat-
tered spouse).

But of all the ways in which the exchange within a sharing
economy can be defined—or put differently, of all the possible
terms of the exchange within a sharing economy—the one way in
which it cannot be defined is in terms of money. As Yochai Benkler
puts it, in commercial economies “prices are the primary source of
information about, and incentive for, resource allocation”; in shar-
ing economies “non-price-based social relations play those roles.”34

Indeed, not only is money not helpful. In many cases, adding
money into the mix is downright destructive.35 This is not because
people are against money (obviously). It is instead because, as phi-
losopher Michael Walzer has described generally, people live within
overlapping spheres of social understanding. What is obviously
appropriate in some spheres is obviously inappropriate in others.36

Both academic literature and ordinary life are filled with a rich
understanding of the differences between commercial and sharing
economies. My favorite is Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, which describes
in great historical detail the different but related understandings
that cultures have had about giving. Think, for example, about the
term “Indian giver,” which I always understood to be derogatory. It
meant someone who gave something but expected to take it back.
But the origin of the term invokes the idea of a sharing economy
directly—not that you will take the same thing back, but that you
understand you’re part of a practice of exchange that is meant, over
time, to be fair: “In 1764, when Thomas Hutchinson wrote his his-
tory of the colony, the term was already an old saying: ‘An Indian
gift,’ he told his readers, ‘is a proverbial expression signifying a pres-
ent for which an equivalent return is expected.’ ”37 So why then do
people give such gifts, the man from Mars asks? Why do they risk
the gift’s misfiring? Why not simply give cash, which is guaran-
teed to transfer efficiently?

The answer is because the gift is doing something more, or dif-
ferent, from simply transferring an asset to another. Again, as Hyde
describes it:

    It is the cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange
    that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, while
    the sale of a commodity leaves no necessary connection. I go into a
    hardware store, pay the man for a hacksaw blade and walk out. I
    may never see him again. The disconnectedness is, in fact, a virtue
    of the commodity mode. We don’t want to be bothered. If the
    clerk always wants to chat about the family, I’ll shop elsewhere. I
    just want a hacksaw blade.38

Gifts in particular, and the sharing economy in general, are thus
devices for building connections with people. They establish rela-
tionships, and draw upon those relationships. They are the glue of
community, essential to certain types of relationships, even if poison
to others. It is not a gift relationship that defines your employment
contract with a steel mill. Nor should it be. But it is a gift relation-
ship, or sharing economy, that defines your life with your spouse
or partner. And if it isn’t, it better become so if that relationship is
to last.

Sometimes organizations trade upon this kind of economy in
order to trade upon the kind of connections a sharing economy
produces. Hyde points to the extraordinarily successful example of
Alcoholics Anonymous:

    AA is an unusual organization in terms of the way money is
    handled. Nothing is bought or sold. Local groups are autono-
    mous and meet their minimal expenses— coffee, literature—
    through members’ contributions. The program itself is free. AA
    probably wouldn’t be as effective, in fact, if the program was
    delivered through the machinery of the market, not because its
    lessons would have to change, but because the spirit behind them
    would be different (the voluntary aspect of getting sober would
    be obscured, there would be more opportunity for manipulation,
    and—as I shall argue presently—the charging of fees for service
    tends to cut off the motivating force of gratitude, a source of AA’s

Likewise, communities that were defined as sharing economies
radically change when money is brought into the mix. Hyde quotes
MIT geneticist Jonathan Kind:

    In the past one of the strengths of American bio-medical science
    was the free exchange of materials, strains of organisms and infor-
    mation. But now, if you sanction and institutionalize private gain
    and patenting of micro-organisms, then you don’t send out your
    strains because you don’t want them in the public sector. That’s
    already happening now. People are no longer sharing their strains
    of bacteria and their results as freely as they did in the past.40

In all these cases, price is poisonous. Money changes a relation-
ship—it redefines it. Indeed, it would most likely insult the host.
“Money-oriented motivations are different from socially oriented
motivations.”41 And crossing the line will either show a profound
misunderstanding of the context, or suggest you did understand
the context, but simply wanted to change it.

These lines of understanding, of course, are not drawn by
God. They are culturally and historically contingent. In Victorian
England, for example, “the presence of money in sport or enter-
tainment” reduced the value of that sport or entertainment, at
least for “members of the middle and upper classes.”42 Obviously,
Americans feel differently today. In nineteenth-century America,
the idea that you would tell your personal problems to a paid pro-
fessional would seem outrageous. Today, it is called therapy—and
the phrase “hey, save that one for the couch” signals an increas-
ing appreciation that some personal matters are not to be within
a sharing economy. Some personal matters should simply be

Thus, no distinction between “sharing” and “commercial”
economies can be assumed to survive forever, or even for long.
My only claim is that when such a distinction exists, then “adding
money for an activity previously undertaken without price com-
pensation reduces, rather than increases, the level of activity.”43
Often, not always. Conservatives in America insist upon keeping
prostitution illegal because they fear that adding money to sexual
exchange will increase the “activity previously undertaken without
price compensation”—i.e., sexual activity outside a monogamous
relationship. In that case, the fear is money increases the activity,
not decreases it.

Commercial and sharing economies coexist. Indeed, they com-
plement each other. Psychologists don’t begrudge friendship, even
though the stronger the economies of friendship in a society, the
weaker the demand for shrinks. The band Wilco doesn’t begrudge
a church choir, even if the choir gives its work away for free, while
Wilco charges plenty for one of their (too infrequent) concerts.
We all understand that similar things can be offered within dif-
ferent economies. We celebrate this diversity. Only a fanatic would
advocate wiping away one economy simply because of its effect on
the other.

Yet sometimes we’re all fanatics. Puritan society has waged war
against economies for sex that compete with sex within a monoga-
mous relationship—believing both fornication (a competing shar-
ing economy) and prostitution (a competing commercial economy)
put too much pressure on an idealized sharing economy. Like-
wise, the content industry today wages war against economies for
exchanging copyrighted content—peer-to-peer sharing economies,
where people don’t necessarily know one another, as well as friend-
ship sharing economies,44 where they do. In both cases, the judg-
ment that the one economy is poison to the other may well be right.
But whether right or not in a particular case, the key is that these
fanatical cases are the exception. In the vast majority of cases, we
permit this intereconomy competition to flourish. In many cases,
we encourage it. No one is called a communist because he plays in
a Thursday-evening softball league (competing with professional
baseball) or helps clean up at a local church (competing with the
janitor of the church). To the contrary: we idealize one who can
trade within a range of societies, with a significant part of his or her
life outside the society of commerce.

Now consider a distinction among the possible motivations that
might explain participation within a sharing economy. Sometimes
these motivations are “me-regarding”—the individual participates
in the sharing economy because it benefits him. Sometimes these
motivations are “thee-regarding”—the individual participates in
the sharing economy because it benefits others. So if I join a local
softball league, I may be driven largely by me-regarding motiva-
tions. If I volunteer at a local soup kitchen, I’m probably driven
mostly by thee-regarding motivations.

Obviously, me and thee motivations are not unrelated. One can
always view motivations that are thee-regarding as being ultimately
me-regarding—I choose to help my neighbors because I want to
be, or I want to be seen as, the sort of person who helps my neigh-
bors. That’s a perfectly sensible way to understand the vast majority
of thee-regarding motivations. My aim is not to insist that sharing
economies are economies of selflessness.

Yet even if thee-regarding motivations are ultimately me-regarding,
they are still, in one sense, more complicated to explain than the
simple me-regarding motivations we all understand intuitively. We’re
tolerant of weird me-regarding motivations (we call some “fetishes,”
others simply “taste”). But weirdness about thee-regarding motiva-
tions makes us wonder whether the person even understands what
he’s saying. For example, I understand the statement “I’m working to
spread the goodness of the National Rifle Association.” I understand it
even though I wouldn’t do the same. But the statement “I’m working
to spread the goodness of Exxon” is not just unusual. For anyone not
actually employed by Exxon, we’d wonder whether the person really
understood what he was saying. Thee-regarding motivations plug
into existing understandings of communities or causes. Me-regarding
motivations (for us, in modern tolerant societies) aren’t so con-

Using this distinction, then, I will call “thin sharing economies”
those economies where the motivation is primarily me-regarding;
“thick sharing economies” are economies where the motivations
are at least ambiguous between me and thee motivation. Thus, in
thin sharing economies, people do not base an exchange on price
or money. But they’re making this exchange simply because it
makes them better off, or because it is an unavoidable by-product
of something they otherwise want to do for purely me-regarding
reasons. One person doesn’t necessarily mind that his actions might
be helping someone else. But there’s no independent desire to help
someone else. The motivation is about me.

Three examples will illustrate what I mean.

 • Think about a stock market. In most major stock markets,
   people share information—ordinarily information about
   how much is bought at what price, but even if that were hid-
   den, the market would share the information about how
   prices were changing. You could describe this sharing as
   constituting a sharing economy. But plainly, it’s a very weird
   sort of person who would buy and sell stocks simply to help
   the market collect information about prices. People buy and
   sell stocks to make money. A by-product of that behavior is
   the information that gets shared with others. If this is a shar-
   ing economy, it is a thin sharing economy.

 • Think of the “Voice Over IP” service called Skype. With
   Skype, you can make free Internet calls, and very cheap
   Internet-to-regular-phone calls (and vice versa). But Skype
   is designed to use, or “share,” the resources of the computers
   connected to this VOIP network. When you’re on the Skype
   phone, Skype is using your computer to make its network
   work better.46 This is like AT&T drawing electricity from
   your house when you use the telephone, as a way to keep its
   electricity costs down. I don’t mean to criticize Skype for
   this: it certainly helps make the service better. But when
   someone participates in this “sharing economy” of com-
   puter resources, what is the most salient motivation? Is it to
   advance the cause of Skype? Or is it simply a by-product of
   people’s desire for cheap calls? I suggest the latter, making
   this too a thin sharing economy.

 • Think finally of AOL’s IM network. The value of that net-
   work increases for everyone. This is a consequence of net-
   work effects: the more who join, the more valuable the
   resource is for everyone. There are many contexts in which
   this network effect is true. Think, for example, about the
   English language. Every time someone in China struggles to
   learn English or a school in India continues to push English
   as a primary language, all of us English speakers benefit. But
   in neither of these cases—with AOL or English—are people
   joining the movement because it is a movement. People join
   because it gives them something they want.

In each case, there is a resource that is shared among everyone
within the community—information about the market, computer
resources to make VOIP work better, the network effect from a
popular network. That resource is shared independent of price. But
in none of these cases is it realistic to imagine people joining or par-
ticipating in these networks for thee-regarding reasons. These are
me-regarding communities. They are thin sharing economies.

By contrast, in a thick sharing economy, motivations are more
complex. A father might spend Sunday mornings teaching a Bible
class at his church. Part of that motivation is about him. But cer-
tainly, part is also about improving the community of his church—
a thee motivation. What the proportion is we need not specify. The
only important point is that there are both, and that the more we
think that there is a thee motivation, the thicker the community is.

This distinction between thick and thin will be important
when considering differences among sharing economies. It will
also be important in understanding the likelihood that any particu-
lar economy will survive over time. For despite the intuitions that
names give to the contrary, a thin sharing economy is often easier
to support than a thick sharing economy. This is because inspiring
or sustaining thee motivations is not costless. Or at least, all things
being equal, a me motivation (for us, now) comes more easily to
most. Thus, distinguishing cases where a thee motivation is neces-
sary from cases where it isn’t will be helpful in predicting whether a
certain sharing economy will survive.

                     Internet Sharing Economies

The Internet has exploded the range and thickness of sharing econ-
omies too. As with commercial economies, the plasticity of the
Internet’s design, and the scale of its reach, offer a vast range of new
opportunities for sharing economies everywhere.

As with commercial economies, these sharing economies flour-
ish in part because of their design. Here too, for example, the best
follow a Bricklin-like principle: People contribute to the common
good as a by-product of doing what they would otherwise want to
do. But some communities demand something more from their
members: some will claim, for example, that members owe one
another something. Depending upon the community, that demand
will often stick. If you told me I had a duty to Amazon, I’d think it
a joke. I love Amazon as much as the next guy. But it gets no loyalty
beyond the good that it offers in return. But there are plenty of enti-
ties within the Internet sharing economy for whom it isn’t a joke to
say I owe the community something. The best such communities
may not depend upon this kind of owing. They may simply make
doing good fun. But in some communities, all the participants
understand they must “do their part.” And failing to do his part
opens the deviant to criticism. For these thick sharing economies,
the motivations to participate are more complex.

The most prominent Internet sharing economy today, and a
paradigm of the type, is one that didn’t even exist before 9/11: Wiki-
pedia. But Wikipedia is not the first Internet sharing economy. So
after we cover the familiar and dominant, we’ll go backward a bit,
to better appreciate the continuity between the “barn raising,” as
one of the Net’s early legal theorists, Mike Godwin, put it, of Wiki-
pedia, and the many barn raisings that happened before Wikipedia
was born.

                 The Paradigm Case: Wikipedia

In 2000, Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales was fishing around for some-
thing better to do. He had been a futures and options trader in
Chicago during most of the 1990s and had made, he told Wired
magazine, enough money “to support himself and his wife for
the rest of their lives.”47 Now he wanted to do something really

At first he thought about writing an encyclopedia, or at least
getting an online encyclopedia written. Using some of the profits
from an adult-content site that he had helped start (Bomis), Wales
launched Nupedia. The idea—obviously the only sane idea for
writing an encyclopedia at the time—was to build a peer-reviewed
work. He hired a philosophy Ph.D., Larry Sanger, as editor in chief.
And they both watched this pot as the project never boiled.

Frustrated over its slow growth, Nupedia launched a “wiki” to
encourage the development of Nupedia articles. A wiki is a plat-
form that lets anyone write or edit in a common space. Wiki soft-
ware has been around for more than a decade. It was originally
intended to enable a team to work on a project collaboratively.
Wales and Sanger intended the wiki to be a sandbox for collabora-
tive drafting of articles for Nupedia. Quickly, however, the sand-
box became much more than a draft. The growth of articles in this
(now dubbed) “Wikipedia” dwarfed anything on Nupedia. The
sandbox then took center stage.

Wikipedia, however, is more than software. It is also a set of
norms that were built into the practice of using that software. The
objective was an encyclopedia. That meant articles were to be writ-
ten from a “neutral point of view” (NPOV). And the project was
to be run by a volunteer community (though Sanger was originally
a paid editor so long as Bomis’s funding continued). To assure that
the volunteers felt they were part of a community, the rules had to
be rules anyone could live by. Thus was born the “ignore all rules”
rule, which Jimmy Wales explained to me as follows:

    “Ignore all rules” . . . is not an invitation to chaos. It is really more
    an idea of saying, “Look, whatever rules we have in Wikipedia,
    they ought to be, more or less, discernible by any normal, socially
    adept adult who thinks about what would be the ethical thing to
    do in this situation. That should be what the rule is.” It should be
    pretty intuitive. And if there’s something that’s counterintuitive,
    it shouldn’t really be a rule. It might be a guideline or it might be
    something that we go around and try to encourage people to do.
    But you can’t get in trouble for not doing it.48

Finally, there was a norm about ownership: nobody owned
Wikipedia exclusively. The content of Wikipedia got created
under a copyright license that guaranteed it was always free for
anyone to copy, and that any modifications had to be free as well.
This “copyleft” license—the brainchild of Richard Stallman—set
the final founding norm for this extraordinary experiment in

If you’re one of the seven people in the world who have not yet
used Wikipedia, you might well wonder whether this experiment
in collaboration can work. The answer is that it does, and surpris-
ingly well—surprising even for Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales.
As he explained to me:

    As people get experienced using Wikipedia and they’re reading
    it a lot, they begin to have this intuition that Wikipedia is pretty
    darn good about being neutral on very controversial subjects. And
    that’s a little bit surprising; I know certainly if you had asked me
    before Wikipedia what a big problem would be, I would have
    said, “Wow, I’m hoping that it’s not going to be incredibly biased
    on controversial subjects. I’m hoping that that won’t happen.” It
    turns out that doesn’t happen, that community is quite good . . . in
    part because of the social norm that we’ve had from the beginning
    about neutrality and about communication.

Not all of the work within Wikipedia is writing original articles.
Indeed, the vast majority of work is editing content—correcting
spelling or formatting errors, rewriting submissions to conform
to the NPOV norm, or simply “softening [a claim] to be more
broadly acceptable.” According to one estimate, only 10 percent
of all edits add substantive content.49 The rest is cleaning up those
additions. And even here, more of the work is done by a relatively
small number of users. According to Jimmy Wales, 50 percent of
all edits are done by 0.7 percent of users—meaning just about 524
users within his sample. The most active 2 percent (1,400) of users
have done 73.4 percent of all edits. Counting content, Aaron Swartz
found that “the vast majority of major contributors are unregis-
tered and that most have only made a handful of contributions to

This division of work is not directed. There’s no “chore” norm
at Wikipedia. As Wales describes,

    If somebody says, “Well, I know about birds and I’m going to come
    in and monitor a few hundred bird articles and I’m going to occa-
    sionally update them when I feel like it but I’m in and out and I’m
    not really a core community member. And I, frankly, don’t really
    have time or feel like dealing with the conflict and I’m not going
    to run a spell-checking bot and I’m just going to do the parts that
    I find fun,” that’s considered perfectly acceptable.

These are volunteers doing as they like. It just turns out that when
you invite the world to participate, there are enough volunteers in a
range of categories of work to make the whole thing function quite

The first question many ask about these thousands of volunteers
is, why do they do it? (And again, this is a world of volunteers. Until
February 2005, there was just one part-time employee).51 “Why do
people play softball?” is a standard Wales response.52 The answer of
course is simply because they like it more than all the other things
they might be doing at the time. But why do they like it? In part
because there is also a ready, and attractive, thee-regarding moti-
vation surrounding the project. As Wales told Tapscott and Wil-
liams, “We are gathering together to build this resource that will be
made available to all the people of the world for free. That’s a goal
that people can get behind.”53

That goal makes Wikipedians (as they call themselves) a com-
munity—not in some abstract sense of a bunch of people with a com-
mon interest, but instead in the very significant sense of people who
have worked together on a common problem. As Wales describes,

    Community sometimes is almost meaningless; it just means there’s
    people out there doing stuff. But in Wikipedia, what community
    means is that they’re people who have met each other; they know
    each other; they’ve had arguments; they’ve made up; they’ve had
    different kinds of controversies; they’ve banded together to take
    care of some problems; they like each other; they don’t like each
    other; sometimes people are dating and then they break up and
    then there’s some rumors and scandals, and all of the stuff that
    makes a rich human community is what goes inside Wikipedia.
    It’s a complete soap opera actually inside our community.

These people are likely to pick up any litter they see in their

Surprisingly, Wikipedia is even good at things you wouldn’t
associate with a traditional encyclopedia—reporting and analyz-
ing news events such as the Virginia Tech massacre and Hurricane
Katrina. Wales explains:

    One of the things that we are doing better, I think, is when we
    have a mass public event or story with breaking news, one of the
    things that we’ve seen is that, in the short run, especially, Wiki-
    pedia does a very interesting thing that I have come to appreci-
    ate more and more over time, which is a census of the news that’s
    coming out. So, the way I present this is when you have a big event
    like this, you’ll have ten, twenty, or thirty, or fifty reporters all
    there, on the scene gathering information. But they’re each see-
    ing only the piece that they can see and even if they’re all abso-
    lutely excellent journalists who are doing their very best to get the
    whole story, they’re each coming from a particular perspective and
    they’re each interviewing particular people with particular views.
    And then that stuff goes out onto the Web where people can read
    all of it.

The New York Times made the same point after the Virginia Tech
massacre. As a review article noted, “From the contributions of
2,074 editors, at last count, the site created a polished, detailed arti-
cle on the massacre, with more than 140 separate footnotes, as well
as sidebars that profiled the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, and gave a
timeline of the attacks.”54 That article was viewed by more than
750,000 within the first two days. Even the local newspaper, the
Roanoke Times, commented that Wikipedia “has emerged as the
clearinghouse for detailed information on the event.”55

I’ve called Wikipedia part of the “sharing economy” even
though technically the license governing Wikipedia permits anyone
to copy Wikipedia for whatever purpose he or she wants, including
the purpose of selling copies. There’s nothing wrong, according to
the license at least, with running an ad-supported site with a copy
of Wikipedia. There’s no problem in printing a physical copy of the
hundred most popular articles and selling those copies for money.
The only licensing restriction is that if you make changes to Wiki-
pedia, you have to license the new version under the same license
as the old. No one is permitted to improve and then lock up the
improvements. They too must remain free.

But Wikipedia is still part of the sharing economy because one’s
access to, or right to edit for, Wikipedia is not metered by money.
More interestingly, the site itself—the one owned by the Wikime-
dia Foundation—doesn’t run ads to support its costs. That deci-
sion is extremely significant. As one of the top ten Web sites in the
world, the decision not to run ads means Wikipedia leaves about
$100 million on the table every year. Why? What drives this site to
ignore so much potential wealth?

One reason important to Wales relates directly to the impor-
tance of the NPOV. As he explained to me, “We do care that the
general public looks to Wikipedia in all of its glories and all of its
flaws, which are numerous of course. But the one thing they don’t
say is, ‘Well, I don’t trust Wikipedia because it’s all basically adver-
tising fluff.’ ” Forgoing ads is a way to buy credibility, just as a
judge forgoing bribes is a way to buy credibility. In both cases,
we might imagine the entity taking money would not be affected
by that money. But there’s no easy way to verify that it’s not been
affected. So to achieve the value sought—neutrality, or fairness—
money must be removed from the equation.

Wikipedia is my paradigm sharing economy. Its contributors
are motivated not by money, but by the fun or joy in what they do.
Some find that joy because the result is something valuable to soci-
ety. Others find that joy because there’s nothing better on television.
Whatever the reason, there’s sufficient motivation spread through-
out the world to build an encyclopedia for free that each day draws
more attention than all the other encyclopedias in history com-
bined. Wikipedia is to culture as the GNU/Linux operating system
is to software: something no one would have predicted could have
been done, yet which an inspired leader and devoted followers built
for free, and to remain free.

                     Beyond Wikipedia

The Internet learned to share, however, long before Wikipedia.
Indeed, as commerce was banned from the Internet until 1991, one
might well say that the Internet was born a sharing economy; com-
merce was added only later. There are many examples. Consider
just a few:

• The code that built the Net came from a sharing economy. The
software that built the original Internet was the product of free col-
laboration. Open-source, or free, software was distributed broadly
to enable the servers and Internet protocols to function. The most
famous of these projects was the GNU Project, which in 1983 was
launched by Richard Stallman to build a free operating system,
modeled upon the then dominant UNIX. For the first six years or
so, Stallman and his loyal followers worked away at building the
infrastructure that would make an operating system run. By the
beginning of the 1990s, the essential part missing was the kernel
of the operating system, without which the operating system as a
whole could not run.

A Finnish undergraduate decided to try to build that kernel.
After tinkering a bit with a version, he released it to the Net for oth-
ers to add to. This undergraduate was named Linus Torvalds. He
named the kernel Linux. Soon, volunteers from around the world
had helped improve the kernel enough that, when added to the
other components of the GNU system, it built a robust and power-
ful operating system called either Linux or, better, GNU/Linux.
We’ll see more about this operating system in the next chapter. The
point to remark upon here is it was built by thousands volunteering
to write code that would eventually guarantee that people could
build upon and share an operating system.

Less famous than GNU/Linux, but just as important to the his-
tory of the Net, are the many instances of free software built to sup-
ply the basic plumbing of the Internet. As Robert Young and Wendy
Goldman Rohm put it in their book, Under the Radar (1999):

    In 1981, Eric Allman created Sendmail, an open source program
    that is responsible for routing 80 percent of the email that travels
    over the Internet. It is currently still maintained by thousands of
    online programmers via In addition, Allman started
    Sendmail Inc. as a business in November 1998. For a profit, he
    sells easy-to-use versions of the open source software, along with
    support and service, to corporations. Another important force in
    the open source world is Perl. It was created by 43-year-old Larry
    Wall, a former linguist who created Perl while at Burroughs Corp.
    on a government-funded project. The software is free, although
    Wall has sold 500,000 copies of his Perl manuals. Another open
    source program, BIND, was originally developed at the Univer-
    sity of California at Berkeley as freeware. It allows domain names
    like to be entered as textual name addresses instead of
    machine numbers (called IP addresses, for example,,
    making it much easier for ordinary people to surf the Internet.
    Apache, the group founded by 25-year-old Brian Behlendorf, got
    its start when Behlendorf was hired to build Wired magazine’s
    Web site. In order to improve the Web server software, he pro-
    grammed his own enhancements and circulated the results, with
    source code, on the Internet. Other contributors added their code,
    and Apache was created. The name came from the fact that the
    software was “a patchy” collection of code from numerous con-
    tributors. Currently, Apache is used by more than half of the Web
    sites on the Internet. It was chosen by IBM, over Netscape’s and
    Microsoft’s closed-source Web server software, to be the founda-
    tion of IBM’s Web commerce software.56

Apache continues to be the dominant Web server on the Inter-
net: for most of the first half of the decade, its market share was
over 60 percent; today, despite fierce competition from proprietary
server companies such as Microsoft and Apple, the market share
remains in the mid-50-percent range.57 All of these products were
initially built by people who lived within an economy of exchange.
But their interactions within that economy were not metered by
money. Some were paid by others so that they could afford to write
software that would be free. But the terms of exchange for add-
ing and changing this code were forbidden to be commercial. The
core free-software license permits developers to sell their code. But
they can never sell the right to modify or change the code they
build onto free software. That economy is always to be a sharing

Why does this kind of software development work? Or better,
why does it often work so much better than proprietary software?

One reason is structural: when you write software that oth-
ers are to work on, you must be more disciplined in your coding.
Comments must be frequent. Code must be made more modular.
That structure helps evaluate bugs. It also invites more to review the
work of the coder: “with enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow.”58

But there’s a third reason that is frequently ignored. Free and
open-source software takes advantage of the returns from diversity
in a way that proprietary software hasn’t. As economist Scott Page
has demonstrated in a foundational study about the efficiency of
diversity, the success of an enterprise in solving a difficult problem
depends not just upon the ability of the people solving the prob-
lem.59 Using mathematical economics, Page shows that the success
also depends upon the diversity of the people solving the problem.
What’s needed is not just, or even necessarily, racial diversity, but a
diversity in experience and worldviews, so as to help a project fill in
the blind spots inherent in any particular view.

That point in the abstract might not sound surprising: sure,
diversity helps, just like ability helps. But the really surprising
part of Page’s analysis is the relationship between the contri-
bution from ability and the contribution from diversity: equal.
Increasing diversity, in this sense, is just as valuable as increasing

Thus, between two projects, one in which the workers are
extremely smart but very narrow, and another in which the work-
ers are not quite as smart but much more diverse, the second project
could easily outperform the first. So even if you believe that pro-
prietary firms can hire the very best programmers, an open-source
project (with a wider diversity of coders) could easily outperform
the proprietary project.

This dynamic, I suggest, explains a great deal of the success of
the software sharing economy. It likewise could explain the success
of Internet sharing economies as well.

• Project Gutenberg is a sharing economy. Founded in 1971 (yes,
1971), Project Gutenberg is the oldest digital library. Its founder,
Michael Hart, launched the project to digitize and distribute cul-
tural works. The first Project Gutenberg text was the Declaration
of Independence. Today, there are more than twenty-two thousand
books in the collection, with an average of fifty books added each
week.60 The vast majority of the books in the collection are public-
domain works, primarily works of literature. Most are in English,
and most are available in plain text only.61 Hart describes his mis-
sion quite simply: “to encourage the creation and distribution of
e-books.” The economy of Project Gutenberg is a sharing economy.
Volunteers add works to the collection; people download works
freely from the collection. Price, or money, doesn’t police access.
Voluntary contributions are all the supporters can rely upon to keep
the work alive.

• Distributed Proofreaders is a sharing economy. Inspired by
Michael Hart’s Project Gutenberg, and launched in 2000 by Charles
Franks, the Distributed Proofreaders project was conceived to help
proofread for free the books that Hart made available for free. To
compensate for the errors of optical character recognition (OCR)
technology, the Distributed Proofreaders project takes individual
pages from scanned books and presents them to individuals, along
with the original text. Volunteers then correct the text through a
kind of distributed-computing project. (See the next item for more
on distributed computing.) Distributed Proofreaders has contrib-
uted to more than ten thousand books on Project Gutenberg. In
2004, there were between three hundred and four hundred proof-
readers participating each day; the project finished between four
thousand and seven thousand pages per day—averaging four pages
every minute.62 All of this work is voluntary.

• Distributed-computing projects are sharing economies. Dis-
tributed computing refers to efforts to enlist the unused cycles of
personal computers connected to the Net for some worthy cause
(worthy in the eyes of the volunteer, at least). The most famous was
the SETI@home project, launched in 1999 and designed to share
computing power for the purpose of detecting extraterrestrial life
(or at least the sort that uses radios). More than 5 million volunteers
eventually shared their computers with this project.63 But there
are many more distributed-computing projects beyond the SETI
project. A favorite of mine is Einstein@Home. As described by

     Einstein@Home is designed to search data collected by the
     Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)
     and GEO 600 for gravitational waves. The project was officially
     launched on 19 February 2005 as part of American Physical Soci-
     ety’s contribution to the World Year of Physics 2005. It uses the
     power of volunteer-driven distributed computing in solving the
     computationally intensive problem of analyzing a large volume of
     data. . . . As of June 3, 2006, over 120,000 volunteers in 186 coun-
     tries have participated in the project.64

The contributions to these distributed-computing projects are
voluntary. Price does not meter access either to the projects or to
their results.

• The Internet Archive is a sharing economy. Launched in 1996 by
serial technology entrepreneur (and one of the successful ones) Brew-
ster Kahle, the Internet Archive seeks to offer “permanent access for
researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist
in digital format.”65 But to do this, Kahle depends upon more than
the extraordinarily generous financial support that he provides to the
project. He depends as well upon a massive volunteer effort to iden-
tify and upload content that should be in the archive. The archive
employs “probably less than one-tenth of one person,” he told me.
And “there have probably been over a thousand people that have
uploaded” creative work to be preserved.66 All of the content is shared
on the archive. Nothing is metered according to price.

• The Mars Mapping Project was a sharing economy. Scientists at
NASA are eager to map the surface of Mars. Mapping means iden-
tifying and marking on their maps the locations of craters, the age
of craters, and other significant geological formations. For years,
NASA and others had done this by hiring professionals. For eleven
months beginning in November 2000, NASA experimented with
asking amateurs to do what professionals had done.

The theory of the experiment was that “there are many scien-
tific tasks that require human perception and common sense, but
may not require a lot of scientific training.” So NASA set up a site
where volunteer “clickworkers” could spend “a few minutes here
and there” and some would “work longer” doing “routine science
analysis that would normally be done by” a professional.67 For
example, the site included “an interactive interface in which the
contributor . . . clicks on four points on a crater rim and watches
a circle draw itself around the rim. . . . Pressing a button sub-
mits the set of latitude, longitude, and diameter numbers to [the]

The results were astonishing. Once word of the project got out,
there were “over 800 contributors who made over 30,000 crater-
marking entries in four days.”69 Even after error correction, this
was “faster than a single graduate student could have marked
them, and also far faster than the original data was returned by
the spacecraft.” Thirty-seven percent of the results were provided
by onetime contributors. And when the results were redundancy
compared, the accuracy was extremely high. As the study of the
results concluded, “even if volunteers have higher error rates . . . , a
cheap and timely analysis could still be useful. In some applications,
noisy data can still yield a valid statistical result.”70 As Yochai Ben-
kler describes: “What the NASA scientists running this experi-
ment had tapped into was a vast pool of five-minute increments of
human judgment, applied with motivation to participate in a task
unrelated to ‘making a living.’ ”71

• Astronomy increasingly depends upon a sharing economy. His-
torically, astronomy always relied on amateurs. But as digital tech-
nologies have made it possible to gather huge amounts of data, there
is a strong push within the field to encourage sharing of these data
among astronomers. As the editors of Nature observed,

    web technologies . . . are pushing the character of the web from
    that of a large library towards providing a user-driven collabora-
    tive workspace . . . A decade ago, for example, astronomy was still
    largely about groups keeping observational data proprietary and
    publishing individual results. Now it is organized around large
    data sets, with data being shared, coded and made accessible to
    the whole community. Organized sharing of data within and
    among smaller and more diverse research communities is more
    challenging, owing to the plethora of data types and formats. A
    key technological shift that could change this is a move away from
    centralized databases to what are known as “web services.”72

The limits on this sharing are therefore not technical. They
are “cultural.” “Scientific competitiveness will always be with us.
But developing meaningful credit for those who share their data is
essential to encourage the diversity of means by which researchers
can now contribute to the global academy.”73

There’s some good evidence this norm is developing. The Digi-
tal Sky Project, for example, funded through the National Science
Foundation, “provides simultaneous access to the catalogs and image
data, together with sufficient computing capability, to allow detailed
correlated studies across the entire data set.”74 Likewise with the
U.S. National Virtual Observatory, another NSF-funded proj-
ect, meant to develop “a set of online tools to link all the world’s
astronomy data together, giving people all over the world easy
access to data from many different instruments, at all wavelengths
of the electromagnetic spectrum from radio to gamma rays.”75 The
emphasis in all these cases is to provide a sharing economy in data,
enabling researchers to draw upon the data to analyze and draw
conclusions that advance the field of astronomy.

• The Open Directory Project is a sharing economy. As a comple-
ment to the search algorithms of major search engines, the Open
Directory Project “is the largest, most comprehensive human-
edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a
vast, global community of volunteer editors.” Volunteers are asked
to sign up to a particular area of knowledge. They are given tools
to help them edit and modify links within the directory. The direc-
tory asks people to give “a few minutes” of their time to “help make
the Web a better place.”76 No money polices access to the results of
this project, or the right to participate in it.

• Open Source Food is a sharing economy. As described by
its founder, “Open Source Food came to fruition because me
and my father wanted to create a place for people like us. We’re
not professional cooks, we just love food. We want to share, learn
and improve ourselves with the help of like-minded food lovers.
Open Source Food is a platform for that.” Users contribute reci-
pes to the database of recipes. And while recipes as such can’t be
copyrighted in the United States, the site uses Creative Commons
licenses to make sure descriptive text and images are available freely
as well.77 No money meters access to the site. Contributions are all

The list could go on practically indefinitely. The Internet is filled
with successful sharing economies, in which people contribute
for reasons other than money. As Benkler argues, they contribute
not because “we live in a unique moment of humanistic sharing.”
Rather, the reason for all this sharing is that “the technological state
of a society . . . affects the opportunities for . . . social, market . . . and
state production modalities.”78 We’re living in a time when technol-
ogy is favoring the social. More vibrant sharing economies are the

                What Sharing Economies Share

In all of these cases, the people participating in creating something
of value share that value independent of money. That’s not to say
they’re not in it for themselves. Nor is it to say that they’re not being
paid. (A programmer working for IBM may well be paid to add
code to a free-software project. But the freedoms that get shared
with that free software are not tied to money.) And it’s certainly not
to say they’re in it solely to benefit someone else. All the category of
“sharing economy” requires is that the terms upon which people
participate in the economy are terms not centered on cash. In each,
the work that others might share is never shared for the money.

So why do people do it? What’s in it for them? What is their

This question has been studied extensively in the context of free
and open-source software. Its answer begins by recognizing how
small the “motivation” is that requires any special kind of explana-
tion. For as a corollary to Dan Bricklin’s Cornucopia of the Com-
mons,79 we need to remember that a large part of the motivation
for contributing to these sharing economies comes from people just
doing for themselves what they want to do anyway.

With free and open-source software, for example, often the
work is self-motivated: a programmer faces a problem and has to
fix it (“scratch an itch,” as Eric Raymond put it). Eric von Hippel
estimates in one study that “Fifty-eight percent of respondents said
that an important motivation for writing their code was that they
had a work need (33 percent), or a nonwork need (30 percent) or
both (5 percent) for the code itself.”80 For these people, the ques-
tion is not, why does someone write the software? but the much
less demanding puzzle, why does someone contribute the solution
freely to others? This, as Rishab Ghosh has written, is obviously a
simpler problem to explain. You don’t lose anything by giving away
an intangible good that you’ve already created; and especially when
you’ve been paid to create it, that’s sufficient reason to contribute it
to others.81

Beyond contributions that are explained by the fact that the con-
tributor had to solve the problem himself anyway, theorists have
identified a number of other reasons to explain these contributions
to sharing economies. Again with software, one voluntary study
demonstrates that a significant portion of contributors are moti-
vated by pure intellectual stimulation (45 percent) or to improve
their own programming skills (41 percent listed this as one of their
top three reasons.) 82

Another reason points to a variant on the argument about diver-
sity I identified in Scott Page’s work above. As Steven Weber puts it
in The Success of Open Source:

    Under conditions of antirivalness, as the size of the Internet-
    connected group increases, and there is a heterogeneous distribu-
    tion of motivations with people who have a high level of interest
    and some resources to invest, then the large group is more likely, all
    things being equal, to provide the good than is a small group.83

That means developers of open-source and free-software projects
have a strong interest in many people sharing the projects, since the
more who share them, the more likely someone will be motivated
to improve them.

Peter Kollock identifies another potential motivator as the “expec-
tation . . . of reciprocity. Both specific and generalized reciprocity can
reward providing something of value to another. When information
providers do not know each other, as is often the case for participants
in open source software projects, the kind of reciprocity that is rel-
evant is called ‘generalized’ exchange.”84

So we see that there is an abundance, not a lack, of motivations.
As Weber writes,

    The success of open source demonstrates the importance of a fun-
    damentally different solution, built on top of an unconventional
    understanding of property rights configured around distribution.
    Open source uses that concept to tap into a broad range of human
    motivations and emotions, beyond the straightforward calculation
    of salary for labor. And it relies on a set of organizational struc-
    tures to coordinate behavior around the problem of managing
    distributed innovation, which is different from division of labor.
    None of these characteristics is entirely new, unique to the open
    source, or confined to the Internet. But together, they are generic
    ingredients of a way of making things that has potentially broad
    consequences for economics and politics.85

In my view, the easiest answer to the motivation question comes
from framing it more broadly: Why do people do these things for
free rather than, say, watching television?

In some cases, the response is simply that the sharing activity is
more compelling. This is a purely me-regarding motivation. I want
to play a game (MUDs and MOOs), or write an article (Wikipe-
dia), or whatever, because I like to.

In some cases, the response is more thee-regarding: Some part
of the motivation to write for Wikipedia is to help Wikipedia ful-
fill its mission: “Wikipedia is a project to build free encyclope-
dias in all languages of the world. Virtually anyone with Internet
access is free to contribute, by contributing neutral, cited infor-
mation.” People contribute because they want to feel that they’re
helping others. Some people help the Internet Archive or Project
Gutenberg because they want to be part of their mission: to offer
“permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to his-
torical collections that exist in digital format” (Internet Archive)
or to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks” (Project

But again, even the thee-regarding motivations need not be
descriptions of self-sacrifice. I suspect that no one contributes to
Wikipedia despite hating what he does, solely because he believes
he ought to help create free knowledge. We can all understand peo-
ple in the commercial economy who hate what they do but do it
anyway (“he’s just doing it for the money”). That dynamic is very
difficult to imagine in the sharing economy. In the sharing econ-
omy, people are in it for the thing they’re doing, either because they
like the doing, or because they like doing such things. Either way,
these are happy places. People are there because they want to be.

Or more completely, because “they want to be” there given the
options the technology offers. As Benkler has put it most clearly,
technology doesn’t determine any result.86 But different technolo-
gies invite different behaviors. The changes in technology I’ve
described here “have increased the role of [sharing] production.”87
If they continue to grow, they could well become part of the “core,
rather than the periphery of the most advanced economies.”88 They
have already done much more than anyone would have predicted
even ten years ago.

                                     HYBRID ECONOMIES

Commercial economies build value with money at their core.
Sharing economies build value, ignoring money. Both are criti-
cal to life both online and offline. Both will flourish more as Inter-
net technology develops.

But between these two economies, there is an increasingly
important third economy: one that builds upon both the sharing
and commercial economies, one that adds value to each. This third
type—the hybrid—will dominate the architecture for commerce
on the Web. It will also radically change the way sharing economies

The hybrid is either a commercial entity that aims to leverage
value from a sharing economy, or it is a sharing economy that builds
a commercial entity to better support its sharing aims. Either way,
the hybrid links two simpler, or purer, economies, and produces
something from the link.

That link is sustained, however, only if the distinction between
the two economies is preserved. If those within the sharing econ-
omy begin to think of themselves as tools of a commercial econ-
omy, they will be less willing to play. If those within a commercial
economy begin to think of it as a sharing economy, that may reduce
their focus on economic reward. Maintaining a conceptual separa-
tion is a key to sustaining the value of the hybrid. But how that
separation is maintained cannot be answered in the abstract.

The Internet is the age of the hybrid.1 Every interesting Internet
business is now, or is becoming, a hybrid. The reasons are not hard
to see. As Yochai Benkler describes,

    A billion people in advanced economies may have between two
    billion and six billion spare hours among them, every day. In order
    to harness these billions of hours, it would take the whole work-
    force of almost 340,000 workers employed by the entire motion
    picture and recording industries in the United States put together,
    assuming each worker worked forty-hour weeks without taking a
    single vacation, for between three and eight and a half years!2

If sharing economies promise value, it is the commercial econ-
omy that is tuned to exploit that. But as those in the commercial
economy are coming to see, you can’t leverage value from a sharing
economy with a hostile buyout or a simple acquisition of assets. You
have to keep those participating in the sharing economy happy, and
for the reasons they were happy before. For here too money can’t
buy you love, even if love could produce lots of money.

Yet there are differences among these hybrids. In this chapter, I
hope first to hide these differences enough to show a common pat-
tern. I then focus on the differences in order to learn a bit more
about how and why some hybrids succeed while others fail. As with
Wikipedia among sharing economies, there is a paradigm here too.
This is the theme upon which everything else is a variation. I start
with this theme and then turn to the growing variations.

                 The Paradigm Case: Free Software

In the early 1990s, Robert Young was in the computer-leasing busi-
ness. As a way to bring in customers, he wrote a newsletter called
New York Unix. The newsletter covered whatever subjects his
(potential) customers might be interested in. He was therefore keen
to understand precisely what his customers would read. “I would
ask all the members of the user groups, ‘What do you want to read
about that isn’t already being covered in the major computer pub-
lications?’ The only thing they could think about at the time was
free software.”

So Young decided to learn something about free software. He
took a train to Boston to sit down with Richard Stallman to “ask
him where this stuff was coming from.” Young was astounded by
what he found. “[Stallman] was using lines [like] ‘from engineers
according to their skill to engineers according to their need.’ ”

“I’m a capitalist,” Young recalls thinking, “and the Berlin wall
had just fallen. I thought, I’m not sure this model is going to keep
going.” Young decided to forget about free software. “Given there
was no economic support [for this] free software stuff,” Young
believed it all “was a blip.” He reasoned, “It was only going to get
worse over time as the communist system only ever got worse over

Yet Young quickly saw that like many of the parallels that
Marx saw, his own historical parallel didn’t quite work. The free-
software system didn’t get worse. “Over the course of the twenty-
four months that I was watching it, the stuff kept getting better.
The kernel got better. More drivers came out for this stuff. More
people were using it.”

This surprise prompted Young to talk with some key free-
software users to find out why the system was such a success. One of
his research subjects was Dr. Thomas Sterling, who worked at the
Goddard Space Flight Center, just outside of Washington, D.C. In
his conversation with Sterling, Young first glimpsed the wide variety
of reasons for the success of free software. One of Sterling’s employ-
ees, Don Becker, was writing Ethernet drivers that he licensed freely.
Becker thought free software was “altruism” and thought himself
part of the “altruism economy.” But Sterling had a different view. As
Young recounted the conversation to me, “Sterling said, ‘Well, yeah,
Don likes to think that way. But the reality is he’s writing these driv-
ers on Goddard time, and I’m the one who’s writing his paycheck.’ ”
In Sterling’s view, the story was simple: this was part of a barter
economy. “He was giving away something of relatively small value,
and receiving back something of much greater value.”

Young’s a pragmatist. He’s skeptical of accounts that rely upon a
mysterious spirit. Free software came, he told me, not from a “com-
munity.” “As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as a com-
munity. It’s simply a bunch of people with a common interest.” That
“bunch of people” represented the “full range of humanity.” But it
had one thing in common: “a desire to see open-source software
succeed.” And that desire led members of this “bunch” to accept
the idea of a commercial entity leveraging this sharing economy.

As Young became convinced that free software wasn’t just a fad
and, more important, that its success didn’t depend upon reviving
Lenin, he began to look for a way to build a Linux business. “I was
looking for a product because I knew that given the growth of inter-
est in Linux, it was going to end up in CompUSA. . . . I didn’t want
CompUSA as a competitor. I’d rather have them as a customer. So I
was looking for products that I could get an exclusive on.”

Young found a young entrepreneur to partner with named
Marc Ewing. Ewing had for a time been developing a software tool
to run on Linux. But after months of frustrating development, he
concluded that what the world really needed was a better version
of Linux. He therefore started to build that better version, which
he would eventually name Red Hat Linux. Young heard about
Ewing’s software and contacted him. He offered to buy ninety
days’ supply of his beta, about three hundred copies. “There was
dead silence at the other end of the phone,” Young recounted to me.
“I finally got out of Marc that he was only thinking of manufactur-
ing three hundred copies. It was a match made in heaven.” Red Hat
Inc., was born, a paradigmatic example of what I call the hybrid.

Red Hat’s success, in Young’s view at least, came from something
that seems so obvious in retrospect that it’s puzzling more didn’t
try the same thing: that this free-software company actually made
its software open-source. Other Linux distributions tried to mix
open-source components with proprietary components. That was,
for example, Caldera’s strategy. But Young understood that the only
way Red Hat could compete with Microsoft or Sun Microsystems
was by giving its customers something more than what Microsoft or
Sun could give them—namely, complete access to the code.

Young saw this point early on. He described a conversation with
some engineers from Southwestern Bell at a conference at Duke.
Young was surprised to learn that they were using Linux to run
the central switching station for Southwestern Bell. He asked why.
Their response, as Young recounts it, is quite revealing:

    Our problem is we have no choice. If we use Sun OS or NT and
    something goes wrong, we have to wait around for months for
    Sun or Microsoft to get around to fixing it for us. If we use Linux,
    we get to fix it ourselves if it’s truly urgent. And so we can fix it on
    our schedule, not the schedule of some arbitrary supplier.

The key was to sell “benefits” and not “features.” And here the ben-
efit was a kind of access that no other dominant software company
could provide.

Red Hat is thus a “hybrid.” Young was not in it to make the
world a better place, though knowing the man, I know he’s quite
happy to make the world a better place. Young was in it for the
money. But the only way Red Hat was going to succeed was if
thousands continued to contribute—for free—to the development
of the GNU/Linux operating system. He and his company were
going to leverage value out of that system. But they would succeed
only if those voluntarily contributing to the underlying code con-
tinued to contribute.

One might well imagine that when a for-profit company like
Red Hat comes along and tries to leverage great value out of the
free work of the free-software movement, some might raise “the
justice question.” Putting aside Marc Ewing (who had great coder
cred), who was Robert Young to make money out of Linux? Why
should the free-software coders continue to work for him (even if
only indirectly, since anyone else was free to take the work as well)?
What did the (in Young’s mind at least) proto-Marxist Stallman
think about the exploitation of this work? “What about,” one might
imagine the question being asked, “the worker coder?”

Yet what’s most interesting about this period in the early life of
the hybrid is that there were bigger issues confronting the move-
ment than whether a Canadian should be allowed to risk an
investment on a Linux start-up. The bigger issue was a general
recognition that free software would go nowhere unless companies
began to support it. Thus, while there was whining on the side-
lines, there was no campaign by the founders of key free software
to stop these emerging hybrids. So long as the work was not turned
proprietary—so long as the code remained “ ‘free’ in the sense of
freedom”3—neither Stallman nor Linus Torvalds was going to
object. This was the only way to make sure an ecology of free soft-
ware could be supported. It was an effective way to spread free
software everywhere. And indeed, the freedom to make money
using the code was as much a “freedom” as anything was. If there
were people who objected strongly to this form of “exploitation,”
then, as Apache cofounder Brian Behlendorf described to me,
they “probably were disinclined from contributing to open source
in the first place. They might have kept themselves out of the
market and not spent their volunteer time or their hobbyist time
writing code.”4

And thus Red Hat (and then LinuxForce [1995], CodeWeavers
[1996], TimeSys Corp. [1996], Linuxcare [1998], Mandriva [1998],
LinuxOne [1998], Bluepoint Linux Software Corp. [1999], Progeny
Linux Systems Inc. [1999], MontaVista Software [1999], Win4Lin
[2000], Linspire [2001], and Xandros [2001], to name a few) was
born. An ecology of commercial entities designed to leverage value
out of a sharing economy. The birth of the most important Internet

Now, as Red Hat demonstrates, there is a delicate balance to be
struck between the commercial entity and the sharing economy.
Red Hat succeeded in maintaining the loyalty of the community
because of how it behaved. It respected the terms of the license; it
supported development that others could build upon; indeed, as
Young estimates, at one point more than 50 percent of the core ker-
nel development team worked for Red Hat,5 and both Red Hat and
VA Linux Systems gave stock options to Linus Torvalds.6 Many
from the GNU/Linux community helped Red Hat understand
what appropriate behavior was, and the company took great steps
to make sure its behavior was appropriate. A key element to a suc-
cessful hybrid is understanding the community and its norms. And
the most successful in this class will be those that best leverage those
norms by translating fidelity to the norms into hard work.

Perhaps the most interesting recent example of this model is a
company called Canonical Ltd., a commercial entity supporting
another brand of GNU/Linux called Ubuntu Linux. Launched
in 2004 by the entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu aims to
become “the most widely used Linux system.” Its focus initially has
been really really easy desktop distributions. (I’ve experimented
with a number of Linux installations. This one was by far the easi-
est.) The company hopes that the ease and quality of its distribution
(not to mention its price) will drive many more individual computer
users to use Ubuntu Linux.

Canonical aims to profit from the community-driven and
community-developed Ubuntu. Its vision is inspired by Shuttle-
worth, who says he has been “fascinated by this phenomenon of
collaboration around a common digital good with strong revision
control.”7 That collaboration is done through a community. Canon-
ical intends to “differentiate ourselves by having the best commu-
nity. Being the easiest to work with, being the group where sensible
things happen first and happen fastest.” “Community,” Shuttle-
worth said to me, “is the absolute essence of what we do.” “Thousands”
now collaborate in the Canonical project.

To make this collaboration work, as Shuttleworth describes,
at least three things must be true about the community. First,
you must give the community “respect.” Second, you must give
“responsibility”—actually give the community the authority you
claim it has. “If you’re not willing to respect the fact that you’ve
offered people the opportunity to get invested, and take a leader-
ship position . . . there’s no way that’s going to grow a strong team.”

Third, and maybe ultimately the most important: you have to
“give people a sense of being part of something that has mean-
ing.” This the free-software community can give away easily. Con-
tributors to this community “feel they’re being part of something
that’s big and important and beautiful. . . . They feel like they get
to focus on the things that they really want to focus on. And that’s

This is a common feature, Shuttleworth believes, across suc-
cessful community-based projects. If you “look at Wikipedia,”
for example, “people genuinely feel like they’re part of something:
they’re helping to build a repository of human knowledge, and
that’s an amazing thing. It’s a full spectrum of motivation, just like
you get the full spectrum of motivation in free software.”

Shuttleworth’s vision is different from Red Hat’s. Remember,
Young didn’t believe in the “community” thing. Community is
central to Ubuntu. But in this range of motivations, some tied to
believing in something and some not, we can begin to get a sense
of the interesting mix that the hybrid economy will produce. Diver-
sity is its strength; it flourishes from the obscurity such diversity

                      Beyond Free Software

Free software is the paradigm hybrid, in which commercial enti-
ties (Red Hat is just one) leverage value from a sharing economy.
But as with Wikipedia and the sharing economy, free software is
obviously not the only hybrid. In this section, we will consider some
other examples, and other flavors of this mix.

I’ve kept this list long because my aim ultimately is to convince
you of the diversity and significance of this category of enterprise.
But I’ve divided the examples into categories. Some hybrids build
community spaces, some hybrids build collaborations, and some
hybrids build communities. Consider each in turn.

Type 1: Community Spaces

From the very beginning of the Internet, its technologies have been
used to build community spaces—virtual places where people
interact, sharing information or interests. The people interacting
do so for sharing-economy reasons: the terms under which they
interact are commerce free, though the motivations for interacting
may or may not tie to commerce.

Few have been able to translate these spaces into successful com-
mercial ventures. Many are trying. The effort and the successes are
examples of one kind of hybrid.


Let’s begin modestly with a hybrid that doesn’t try to change the
world, but has changed substantially how easily people can connect
about their intense relationships (not to say “obsessions”) with dogs.
Dogster, as the Web site explains, is built by “dog freaks and com-
puter geeks who wanted a canine sharing application that’s truly
gone to the dogs.” Since its launch in January 2004, it has become
the fastest-growing pet destination on the Internet, in 2007 “serving
over 1.5 million photos for over 300,000 uploaded pets by 260,000
members; Dogster and Catster serve more than 17 million pages
a month to over half a million visitors.” The site offers “forums,
classifieds, diaries, treats, private messaging, Gimme Some Paw,
DogsterPlus, photo tagging, themed strolls, pet-friendly travel and
pet-personality matrix.” The site is designed to make this commu-
nity space the dominant pet center on the Net.

Dogster doesn’t do this for free. The community space supports
itself through advertisement. Given the size of the community, the
revenue is likely to be close to $275,000 a year.8 But that revenue
means “a couple of handfuls of people can be employed by that
site.” And because it can fund itself like this, the site “will touch a
lot more people.”9 The site thus leverages the community of passion
and conversation that surrounds pets to produce revenue that sup-
ports the site. A hybrid.

craigslist: “Like, Peace, Man”
The bread and butter of most local newspapers is advertising. The
most lucrative of this advertising are classifieds. According to one
estimate, “U.S. newspapers derive 37% of their total advertising
income from classifieds.”10 For major papers, the number is even
higher: “Revenues from classified ads account for around 43% of
total advertising revenues from major papers and over a third of
total revenues.”11

In 1995, Craig Newmark launched a service that would change
all that. craigslist was offered first as a community site just in San
Francisco, enabling people to post free ads for everything from
home rentals to offers for the erotic. The site grew. Fast. It incorpo-
rated in 1999 and then expanded into nine U.S. cities in 2000, four
more in 2001 and 2002, another fourteen in 2003. By the end of
2006, there was a craigslist in more than four hundred cities around
the world,12 and overall page view growth was 195 percent that
year. Today, it is the ninth-most-visited site in the United States
and managed largely by Jim Buckmaster.13

But though the site has spread broadly, in critical ways the site
has never really changed. Its design is extremely simple, almost
retro now. There are no fancy graphics, no Flash introduction.
When you navigate to craigslist, you’re presented with a screen of
blue text, each a link to a category holding the stuff that you might
want. On the URL bar in your browser, the icon for the site is a
peace sign.

Newmark originally launched his site “as a community ser-
vice.” Its success, at least so he believes, comes from the fact that
“people can see that we actually do [provide a community service]
and follow up on that.”14 The follow-up is in form as well as sub-
stance. Again, the simplicity of the site speaks volumes. Users are
reminded of an earlier, noncommercial Internet. That simplicity
stands in sharp contrast to the molasseslike sophistication of most
of the rest of the commercial Web.

Second, “99 percent of the site’s content is free.”15 This “free”
reinforces the sense that people are exchanging information, or
“bartering” information, in something other than a commercial
economy. craigslist enables them to “share” information—wants or
needs—as members of the craigslist community.

Third, craigslist reinforces that sense of community by shifting
to the users a certain responsibility. The power to judge what con-
tent survives on craigslist is vested first in the community. As New-
mark described it to me, “We’re saying, ‘Hey, if you see something
that’s wrong, you can flag it, and if other people agree with you,
it’s removed automatically.’ People respond real positively to being

But fourth, and most interesting for understanding this hybrid,
not everything on craigslist is free. While the site has clearly
signaled—and said, again and again—that, as Craig Newmark
told me, “we’re not out to make lots of money,” two classes of ads—
ads for jobs in eleven cities and apartments in New York City—are
not offered for free.16 From this income, the balance of the site is
supported, and its founders profit.

The community thus does not demand a commerce-free zone.
It does not require that its founders remain poor. At least so long as
the demand remains modest, the community stays. And it stays even
though the revenue to craigslist is quite substantial—“estimated at
more than $20 million per year, with very healthy margins for this
tiny private company.”17

Whether this “community site” really feels like a community is
partially revealed by the sorts of things people think it is appropri-
ate to do, or talk about, on craigslist. Some of those things I can’t
repeat in a book like this. But some plainly do signal something
important about the sense people have of the craigslist community.

Take for example the site’s response to the Katrina disas-
ter. Immediately after Katrina hit, the users of the New Orleans
craigslist took it over, in effect, and directed its attention to helping
victims of Katrina cope with the disaster. As Newmark told me,
“Survivors announced where they relocated to. Friends and fam-
ily asked people, ‘Hey, have you seen so and so?’ And then later,
well actually, pretty soon, people started offering housing to survi-
vors. A couple days later, people started offering jobs to survivors.”
Three days after Katrina hit New Orleans,

    craigslist’s New Orleans page featured more than 2,500 offers
    from around the country for free housing for hurricane victims,
    ranging from “Start a new life in South Carolina” to “Comfy
    couch in spacious NYC apartment.” . . . Never before has the Inter-
    net played such a vital role in filling the information void follow-
    ing a natural disaster.18

As the San Francisco Chronicle recounted:

    The message is short. So short it would fit on a postcard. It lin-
    gers in cyberspace waiting for a response. “Family of 4 willing,
    wanting to help. Can drive to get you. Stay as long as you need to
    here in Albuquerque. God bless you. We care. Howard and Lisa
    Neil.” It is one of more than 2,000 classified advertisements—and
    counting—posted on craigslist, a network of online urban com-
    munities, offering free, temporary housing to people who have
    lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina. . . . The listing can be found
    under a new category on the Web site—Katrina Relief—that also
    includes listings for relief resources, missing people, temporary
    jobs, missing pets, transportation and volunteers.19

The point in recounting this story is not so much to praise
craigslist (as if it needed more praise). It is instead to highlight what
may already be obvious: craigslist’s standing as a “sharing economy”
was reflected in the fact that it was clear to everyone that that was
the place to go to help survivors from Katrina. There were no doubt
sites with a bigger presence. Wikipedia has more hits each day
than craigslist. But the meaning of Wikipedia is not activism, it is
knowledge. Yahoo! and Google both have a presence much bigger
than craigslist or Wikipedia. But it would have been hard to gen-
erate the feeling that this was a community response by tying the
activity to those commercial giants. And there’s no need to waste
time explaining why people didn’t use the government’s Web sites
to work this good, so pathetic is the government as an inspiration
for community. We see how the community understands craigslist
by watching how the community uses craigslist. And when emer-
gency help was needed, the obvious response was this simple site of
community messages.

Of course, craigslist was not the only Internet response to
Katrina. Neither was it the most important. David Geilhufe’s
PeopleFinder Project probably earns that title; it was built exclu-
sively by volunteers in an extraordinary demonstration of a sharing
economy that ultimately hosted more than 1 million Katrina-related
searches in the “immediate aftermath of the hurricane.”20 But Geil-
hufe’s success is not a complaint about craigslist. The significance
of craigslist was that it was the place to start. Its karma made this
commercial entity enough of a community site so that it made sense
to use it to help the victims of America’s most devastating natural
(and then governmental) disaster.

It’s impossible to say how long craigslist can keep this karma.
Knowing Newmark, I’d bet forever. But institutions change. And
sometimes, institutions change people. The importance for our pur-
poses, however, is simply to suss out what makes the sharing salient
in this commercial entity. Newmark’s is the hybrid to envy. His
intuition of how best to maintain this community is pure gold.


In the early 2000s, Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake decided
they wanted to build a multiplayer game called Game Neverending.
They failed. Flickr was the result of their failure (would that we all
could “fail” so well). Realizing the code they had built would make
a great photo-sharing site, they launched the site in February 2004.
By September the site had over sixty thousand registered users.
Six months later, that number topped four hundred thousand. In
December 2006, five million users were registered at Flickr.21

Theirs wasn’t the first site to enable people to post pictures to
the Internet. In 1999, Lisa Gansky and Kamran Mohsenin started
Ofoto, an online photography service. Ofoto was acquired by
Kodak in 2001. Kodak spent millions building Ofoto. But Kodak’s
site was crassly commercial. Everything was about buying pho-
tographs, or buying albums, or buying T-shirts with your photo-
graphs on them. The site encouraged community in just the sense
that a Kodak store at the mall encouraged community.

This failure at Ofoto wasn’t for a lack of trying. I knew some of
the team at that Berkeley start-up. They got it. They worked hard
to make Ofoto what it should be. But what it should be was resisted
by the powers at Kodak. Kodak didn’t get community, even if its
marketing department was good at producing sappy commercials
that celebrated it.

Flickr was different. From day one, the aim was not to facili-
tate commerce. The aim was instead to build a community. People
could easily share their photographs and get feedback from other
photographers and friends. This is what distinguished the site from
others. As Stewart Butterfield told me, at the time Flickr launched,
“there really wasn’t a concept of public photos.”22 Flickr changed
that. In the beginning “80 percent of the photos [were] public.”
That meant that “there was a much bigger audience for the photos
that were on Flickr.”

One way Flickr signaled the freedom to share was by explicitly
incorporating tags that enabled people to say, “You’re free to share
this work.” Those tags came in the form of Creative Commons
licenses. (We’ll see more about Creative Commons in chapter 10.)
They signaled that Flickr’s lack of control over intellectual property
was explicit: the users owned the IP. They were free to license as
they wished. Flickr was keen to encourage the idea that it licensed
to enable people to share.

This focus on sharing helped build a certain kind of community.
Flickr quickly became part of the identity of Flickr users. As But-
terfield put it, “Netflix is an example of where I get the value out of
other people’s recommendations . . . but it’s not part of my identity
that I’m a Netflix user. [But] Flickr users actually have meet-ups
in Tehran and Kuala Lumpur and Manchester.” And community
members do more than simply use the space that is provided for
them. In a metaphorical sense, they pick up the trash. One of the
keys to Flickr’s success was the fact that its members constantly
policed the site against porn. Members can flag a photo as inappro-
priate. Pornography is quickly moved off the site. The same with
reviews. As Butterfield told me, “People aren’t writing reviews just
because they happen to like writing reviews.” They do it instead
because they feel part of a community.

In March 2005 Flickr was acquired by Yahoo!. Its founders con-
tinued to work for the company. Characterizing their job, Butterfield
told me, “In some sense we’re trustees or custodians . . . like a land
trust that buys up wetlands.” For obviously, Yahoo! didn’t buy Flickr
as a way to subsidize the sharing economy. Flickr instead was to be
a model for the hybrid that Yahoo! intends to be. Yahoo! intends to
profit from this community of photo collaboration. So far, however,
the company has been modest in its aspirations. Most revenue to
Flickr comes from Flickr memberships—which give users “unlim-
ited storage, unlimited uploads, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited sets,
personal archiving of high-resolution original images, ad-free brows-
ing and sharing.” Some revenue comes from partnerships with sites
that offer prints of Flickr photos. But so far the company leaves mil-
lions on the table. Butterfield recognizes this: “We have well over a
billion page views a month now. That’s one of the biggest sites on the
Internet. And if we just went for the maximum amount of graphi-
cal advertising . . . we’d make a lot more money.” But, as apparently
Yahoo! also recognizes, “it just wouldn’t last for very long.” Respect-
ing the norms it understands its community to carry, Yahoo! thus
continues to let the community live like a sharing economy, with small
but increasingly significant efforts to leverage something on top.


In 2005, three early PayPal employees— Chad Hurley, Steve Chen,
and Jawed Karim—started building a video-sharing service for the
Internet. They weren’t the first. But they architected the best. Steve
Chen told me, “The sort of initial acceleration for our growth came
from the technology. We did some things right—namely, choosing
Flash video as a delivery platform so you didn’t have to download
anything. The video just plays in the browser.”23 By using Flash as
the video format, they guaranteed that anyone with a (modern)
Web browser could view the videos. (As Chen told me: “I always
thought about the grandmother in the Midwest, if she came to a
video site.”) Very quickly the service grew. Indeed, by the sum-
mer of 2006, YouTube was the world’s fastest-growing Web site.
Nielsen/NetRatings estimated traffic was growing 75 percent per
week in July 2006. One hundred million clips were viewed daily;
sixty-five thousand were uploaded every hour. Users spent twenty-
eight minutes per visit on the site. In the United Kingdom the site
quickly became the largest online video market.24 In 2007, YouTube
was bought by Google—for a reported $1.65 billion.

So this success came first from great code. But technology was not
everything. The balance was, as Chen put it to me, “the communi-
ty . . . the people’s relationship, their tie to, user-generated content on
YouTube.” This value came directly from the community. YouTube
users select the content to be added. They make the content that gets
added. Some of YouTube’s content is copyrighted material that the
copyright owner didn’t upload. But if the top hundred videos is any
indication, most of the most popular of YouTube’s content comes
from users creating content that they then upload to YouTube’s site.
The site has become a bizarre mix of the most bizarre video con-
tent. It has launched some stars, and some fanatics. (Wikipedia lists
more than sixty YouTube creators who have become Internet phe-
nomena on the basis of their appearance in YouTube videos.) 25 No
site—ever—has more quickly become central to popular culture.

So why do people do it? What do they expect to gain from
working so hard to make a couple of Stanford dropouts rich? Most,
following Dan Bricklin’s insight, contribute as a by-product to get-
ting what they want—a simple, cheap, and effective way to spread
their video. YouTube, and the other video-sharing sites, provide a
service that even three years ago seemed unimaginably difficult: a
network location that would deliver anyone’s video for free.

But some do much more than simply consume content. As
with craigslist, the community of YouTube users helps police the
YouTube content. Inappropriate content gets flagged. Content vio-
lating the rules gets reported. Like neighbors in a well-kept com-
munity, the users clean up after one another and take pride in the
place they’ve helped build. The result is a space that is addictive as
well as amazing. Its biggest draw, founder Chen told me, is

    just the content itself. We see on our top-viewed pages some of this
    content from [professional sites] versus some of this content from
    user generated. They’re just married together, sitting side by side
    on all these “top browsed” lists. But some of this stuff was created
    with $500 of editing equipment and a lot of time spent on it ver-
    sus, on the other end of the spectrum, probably millions of dollars
    to create this fifteen-second commercial.

“The very nature of UGC [user-generated content] video sites,
as well as their potential for financial success and sustainability,
relies on the effective leveraging of Internet-based social network-
ing activities. In other words, the content must be shared in order to
represent value.”26

Type 2: Collaboration Spaces

A collaboration space is different from a community space like
Flickr or YouTube. Those participating in a collaboration space
think their work is different. Or more accurately, at least some
(significant portion) of those on a collaboration space believe they
are there to build something together. The community is visible.
It’s the focus of the work. And the product of the participation is
intended to be more valuable than the material they found when
they came.

This collaboration can come in many forms. Consider a range
of examples.


Declan McCullagh is a journalist. He began his career covering and
protesting Internet censorship. In 1994, while a student at Carnegie
Mellon in Pittsburgh, McCullagh began organizing against efforts
by CMU to “remove any Usenet newsgroup that had the word ‘sex’
or ‘erotica’ in the title.”27 That organizing took the form of an e-mail
mailing list, Fight Censorship. The mailing list had two channels.
One was an announce list, which McCullagh published to, posting
information about the fight against censorship. The second was a
discussion list, on which individuals receiving the e-mail could also
post comments or replies to what they received. The traffic from
the second list was often overwhelming. That led most to stay on
the announce list only.

Fight Censorship was soon renamed Politech, and its focus
broadened to include the “growing intersection of law, culture,
technology, politics, and law.”28 In the terms that I’ve used, Politech
is a sharing economy. At least those in discussion space speak out
and/or listen, constituting a community of common interest and,
sometimes, common action. (I criticized [mildly] McCullagh in
my first book; the flames I got from McCullagh’s community were
anything but mild.) The community in this sense is like hundreds
of thousands that live in discussion spaces everywhere. Yahoo! has
over 2,083,698 such groups.29 So too does Google. McCullagh’s is
much smaller than those, but for a private (noncommercial) site, it
is quite impressive: the list started with a couple hundred readers. It
now boasts more than ten thousand subscribers.

But McCullagh has transformed this sharing economy into
a hybrid. For in the time since CMU, he has become a profes-
sional journalist. His journalism is within the scope of the interests
of Politech. Neither aggressively nor inappropriately, McCullagh
uses the community he has built to better his journalism. As he
explained to me: “Intentionally, I tried to create a community. I
never really thought much about where it would end up. But I did
do things like that [from the start].” The reasons are not hard for a
journalist to identify with. Said McCullagh,

    This is a problem for journalists . . . because people read our arti-
    cles but we don’t really have a community to talk to. We just get
    nastygrams from people who hate us, and we get nice notes from
    people who like us. But the process of being able to develop an
    article idea with some community input is very valuable. So you
    can throw out sort of half-baked ideas on a mailing list, and then
    hone those into something that you can get paid to write a few
    days later.

When he was hired recently by CNET, he and his new employer
agreed that he would get to keep his community and to feed it in
the way its members had come to expect. Nothing confidential
would be shared, but the community could be drawn upon to help
this journalist produce good work.

And not just good work. Politech members gather for dinners
in big cities. McCullagh connects with them as he travels. The site
thus spawned a community—and not just one community. As
McCullagh told me as we ended our interview, “Oh, I should say: I
met my wife through the list.”


Slashdot began in September 1997 as a Web site covering technology-
related news. Its angle, however, was a technology that enabled
users to both comment upon the articles that got referenced, and
comment upon the comments. The consequence of the second set
of comments would be to filter out comments not thought useful.
That meant the site could self-edit, and hence present to any reader
a high-quality public debate about issues important to the technol-
ogy community.

Today there are more than a quarter million people collaborat-
ing in just this way on Slashdot.30 Their work—work they don’t
get paid for, don’t even get frequent-flier miles for—produced a site
worth millions of dollars. In 1999, Slashdot was sold to Andover
.net, and ads were added to the layout. So readers edit, and readers
and then profit.

Collaboration here winnows a potentially endless array of com-
ments to a relative few that people reading the site would or should
want to see. The site adds a kind of collaborative editing to a news
page that is RW to the tradition of RO news. This collaboration
produces a high-quality RW site. Editing is value. This value is
produced for free.

No doubt the industry that has squealed the most (think stuck
pig) about the Internet is the traditional recording industry. As
I’ve described, the Net competed (whether legally or not) with its
model for profiting from music. It fought hard to limit that compe-
tition. But not all in the music business have fought the Net. Some
have tried to build upon its design, to enable collaboration among
music fans. One great example of this technique is the site (recently
acquired by CBS) called’s objective was to find a way to map user preferences
for music into an engine that might recommend music more intel-
ligently. Many have tried this. But does it by a unique mix
of community and technology. The technology watches what you
listen to, “scrobbling” (meaning sending the name of the song
you’re listening to) to an engine that then learns more about you
(and people like you). That engine then enables individuals to be
linked with others. But not just anonymously. Instead, the technol-
ogy helps individuals link their own user pages with others, both
friends and those within their musical “neighborhood.”

As Japanese venture capitalist (and investor) Joi Ito
described it to me,

    The community originally was, and may still be, revolv-
    ing around the cleaning up of the data. So if you have titles of
    songs that are misspelled, or if you have an artist whose name is
    written differently in Japanese, there’s a whole community of peo-
    ple who go in and fix those ambiguities and fix the data.

The contributions, however, are now much wider than some form
of community editing. “There’s also a community around each of
the bands where people talk. . . . There are discussion groups and
people are contributing information. And by listening to a lot of the
music, the users are creating profiles.”

Thus, simply by listening to music, members “generate value
for the community.” Listening becomes a kind of advertising. Each
song you listen to gets tagged as a song you listened to. It advertises
the song. It cues others to your interest. But this advertising is sim-
ply conversation. Again, Ito: “What we’re currently doing in terms
of so-called advertising is really part of the conversation.” Volun-
teers converse. The product is a value to the company.


In an increasingly remote region of cyberspace called Usenet, a
fanatically committed group of volunteers works to help people
they’ve never met with computer problems. These problems might
be simple. Some are quite complex. Yet these volunteers spend
many hours helping these lost cybersouls find digital salvation. In
the particular space to which I am referring, there are over 2 mil-
lion contributors a year, with over forty thousand making more
than thirty-six contributions each per year, and about eight hun-
dred making contributions just about all the time.

The striking thing about this story is not that there are people
helping other people. Nor is it that the people are helping people
they’re never going to meet. It is instead that all this pro bono effort
is devoted to a very peculiar end: that of making Microsoft’s cus-
tomers happier. For these volunteers live within Microsoft support
“newsgroups.” They’re not paid by Microsoft. The vast majority
are not even recognized by Microsoft. But they all work (and some
work quite hard) to make Microsoft richer by solving its customers’

Microsoft knows this. In one of two buildings devoted to research,
the chief of Microsoft’s Community Technologies Group, Marc
Smith, leads a team carefully studying the behavior within these
groups. The company has developed elaborate technologies to mea-
sure the “health” of these and other virtual communities, asking,
for example: Is there enough balance to the contributions? and Are
the contributors constructive or smothering? It is constantly reflect-
ing upon the husbandry necessary to make these communities work
better. Researchers study the interaction. They watch the pattern of
communication. They try to learn what forms of interaction work.

The problem isn’t easy. There are scores of variables to consider.
But the one variable that remains completely absent is money. Not
because Microsoft is too poor to pay its help. Or because the commu-
nity is not creating important value for Microsoft. Money is absent
because Smith doesn’t believe that “cash exchange for community
support” helps. “There are numerous social benefits that amply
incentivize contributions to communities,” Smith explains. Money
isn’t one. Indeed, for the reasons we’ve discussed, money would
probably hurt.

This is Microsoft building a hybrid economy. Volunteers living
within what was once a pure sharing economy—Usenet—devote
extraordinary time and effort to helping Microsoft users better use
Microsoft products. Microsoft is not passive about this sharing. It
cultivates it. It spends real resources to understand how to make it
work for it, better. But the product is a network-based community
collaborating to make it easier to use Microsoft products.

Yahoo! Answers

Usenet is not the only forum for sharing information. Increasingly
companies are building “answer sites” to encourage a wide range
of questions that will encourage a rich and diverse community. In
December 2005 Yahoo! followed the Usenet lead and launched a
service called Yahoo! Answers.

The basic idea was simple enough: Millions of volunteers would
spend their free time answering other people’s questions, for free. If mil-
lions did this long enough, and reliably enough, Yahoo! would profit
from it. Yahoo!’s aim was to become the hub of community-based
activity on the Web. The hottest answer site would be an important
part of that hub. As described to me by Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang,

    We’ve been at it for about a year and there are 75 million people
    a month participating either asking questions, answering ques-
    tions, looking up answers. You know, some of it is silly, “Why is
    the sky blue?” Others are very technical questions or very special-
    ized questions around taxes or profession. A lot of people saying,
    “I can’t get my Mac to work. What do I do?” And all of a sudden,
    you have this very natural human interaction of “I have a question
    and somebody out there must have an answer for this.” But you
    bring it on the Web and then you have a global community.31

As of April 14, 2008, the site contains 35,411,866 questions and
35,411,851 answers.32

Again, why would anybody want to help Yahoo! like this? We’ve
seen the answer before. They don’t do it to help Yahoo!. Some like
to show others how smart they are. Some like to help. “Because they
like to” is explanation enough for why people offer their expertise.

Yahoo! adds to these incentives, not with money, but by offering
a point system to users. Users get one hundred points when they
open an account. They get two points for every answer given, one
point for every vote on an unresolved question, and ten points if
their answer is selected as best. To ask a question costs five points. If
you delete an answer you posted, you lose the two points you got by
posting it, and you lose ten points if a question or answer is deemed
to violate the terms of service.33

But, as with Microsoft, money is not part of the equation. The
incentives from a gamelike structure are enough; adding money
would make this seem more like work. For the users, it isn’t meant
to be work. Again, Yang: “I’m not sure we’ll just do, ‘Hey, you
know what, if you answer a lot of questions, you’ll get paid.’ I think
there is this fine balance between paying people versus people feel-
ing like there’s a noncommercial motive.”


Wikipedia, as I described in the previous chapter, is a sharing econ-
omy. It has sworn off advertising as a way to raise money. This is no
idle resolve: as I’ve already mentioned, based on the traffic Wikipe-
dia garners, it could earn over $100 million a year if it added adver-
tising to its site. Such is the opportunity of top ten Internet portals.

Wikia, another wiki site, was launched by Wikipedia founder
Jimmy Wales. Its aim is not to build an encyclopedia. Rather, its
aim is to be a “platform for developing and hosting community-
based wikis. Specifically, Wikia enables groups to share informa-
tion, news, stories, media and opinions that fall outside the scope
of an encyclopedia. . . . Wikia is committed to openness, inviting
anyone to contribute web content.”34 The site is enjoying the Jimmy
Wales magic. With eight hundred thousand articles, it is actually
growing faster than Wikipedia was at a comparable period.35

The site is already a treasury of human culture. Fans of televi-
sion shows detail facts about the shows. The Marvel Database Proj-
ect hopes to become “the largest, most reliable, and most up-to-date
encyclopedia about everything related to the Marvel/DC universe.”
Football (meaning soccer) fans can build upon the “football wikia”
for all topics related to football. Foodies can contribute to discus-
sions of food and recipes. All of this work—or better, this passion
for these subjects—is offered for free. No one makes money on

Except, of course, Wikia Inc. For unlike Wikipedia, Wikia does
run ads. Unobtrusive, sometimes silly, but increasingly valuable for
the site. Wikia offers its users a free platform to build a community.
They do the building. That building is a complex process of col-
laboration. Wikia gets the advertising revenue.

This fact leads many to wonder how such a site can work. Don’t
the builders of these wikis realize that Wikia could grow rich off
of their creative work? The answer is yes, they do, but that doesn’t
stop them from contributing. Just as a bowling alley does, Jimmy
Wales explains, Wikia provides a context in which people get to
do what they want. Like a bowling alley, people are happy if they
get to do something they enjoy. No one begrudges the owner of a
bowling alley his profit. Wales believes no one will begrudge Wikia
its profit.

This is true, at least if certain other conditions remain true.
There’s got to be competition among wiki sites that allows users
to move as they want. And Wikia supports this competition by
enabling users to move the content of the wiki elsewhere if they
begin to find the bowling alley no longer reflects their values. Wales
imagines a Wiki user reasoning:

    “Look, we accept that you have ads because we know we need the
    infrastructure, but that’s not giving you carte blanche to basically
    slap way too much stuff all over the site.” And so that tension and
    the fact that communities are empowered to actually leave—they
    can take all their content and leave if we’re not making them
    happy—are really important.

There’s thus a social contract between the commercial and the shar-
ing. Upon that contract, the value in Wikia gets built.

Hybrid Hollywood

Perhaps the most interesting emerging (if slowly) example of collab-
orative hybrids comes from the least likely of sources: Hollywood.
Increasingly, Hollywood is including the audience in the process of
building, spreading, and remaking its product. That practice con-
stitutes a kind of hybrid.

The story is not always pretty. Progress has not always been
smooth. Perhaps the best example of this struggle, producing in
the end real understanding, begins with a home-schooled fourteen-
year-old named Heather Lawver.

In January 2000 Lawver started an online newspaper called
The Daily Prophet. This was not a religious paper. It was instead
an effort to explain and extend the story given to her generation
by the extraordinary author J. K. Rowling. Every day for months,
Heather would collect articles written by kids around the world
about the Harry Potter saga. She would edit them and then publish
them online.

As Henry Jenkins, perhaps the world’s leading scholar on the
emerging RW creativity of the Net, notes, “Rowling and Scholastic,
her publisher, had initially signaled their support for fan writers,
stressing that storytelling encouraged kids to expand their imagi-
nations and empowered them to find their voices as writers.”36
In 2003 Rowling welcomed “the huge interest that her fans have
in the series and the fact that it has led them to try their hand at

But the instincts of a brilliant writer are not always the instincts
of a media company. As Rowling’s success migrated from the
printed page to a major Hollywood media company, Warner, the
“control” over what was now Warner’s “property” shifted from
a storyteller to a pack of lawyers. As Marc Brandon, the twenty-
something Net-head Warner eventually brought in to deal with the
problem they were about to create, explained, “Warner Bros. at the
time . . . had never dealt with something the scale of a Harry Potter.
Certainly not online.”38 So the company dealt with the Harry Pot-
ter questions in the way they had dealt with IP issues on the Inter-
net. As Jenkins describes: “The studio had a long-standing practice
of seeking out Web sites whose domain names used copyrighted
or trademarked phrases. . . . Warner felt it had a legal obligation to
police sites that emerged around their properties.”39

“Police” in this context means firing off angry letters written
by entry-level lawyers who always wanted a gun, but instead were
issued IBM Thinkpads.

Lawver learned of these threats in December 2000. They trans-
formed her into an activist. (Why? I asked her. “I think it just kind
of came from a common sense point of view, and, also . . . I grew
up in a household with three brothers, and they were all Weird Al
fans. And so I was really familiar with his various battles against
other artists.”) 40 Two months later, she had organized a boycott of
Harry Potter products. On February 22, 2001, the “Potter Wars”

Lawver was the commander in chief. The teen debated Warner
Bros. representatives on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.42
Newspapers around the world started picking up on the fight.43
“We weren’t disorganized little kids anymore. We had a public fol-
lowing and we had a petition with 1500 signatures in a matter of
two weeks. They finally had to negotiate with us.”44

Lawver’s campaign of course leveraged the Net. Warner quickly
became savvy in its strategy of intimidation. It avoided threatening
Lawver directly; it hoped to avoid her following generally. But, as
she told Jenkins,

    They attacked a whole bunch of kids in Poland. . . . They went
    after the 12 and 15 year olds with the rinky-dink sites. [But]
    they underestimated how interconnected our fandom was. They
    underestimated the fact that we knew those kids in Poland and
    we knew the rinky-dink sites and we cared about them.45

“If someone got threatened by Warner,” she explained to me,
“they could come to us. And it got to the point where Warner Bros.
was so afraid of me and my partner, Alastair Alexander, that if we
sent them an e-mail, most of the time the threatening would stop.”
And “the most important” part of the story, “regardless of any legal
impact it had,” was that after this battle, kids from around the world
were fighting back. They were “fighting their own battles now,
because they have the confidence to do what they can.”

This was the part of the story that I had heard about. It was the
part, in my perverse yellow-journalism sense, I wanted Lawver to tell
me more about. But to my surprise, and (eventual) delight, Lawver
was not so interested in trashing Warner. Her real interest was in
making me understand a different, less-reported part of the story.

For this was not simply a story of the big bad media company.
It was also a story of a company coming to learn something about
the digital age. As much as she was rightly proud of the movement
that she had spearheaded, Lawver was also proud of the way she
had helped Warner understand the twenty-first century. “We did
a lot of educating,” she told me, “regarding where fans are going to
take a stand and how much crap we’re going to take before we fight
back.” More important, she pushed Warner to understand that fans
were not a burden. “Warner Bros. [came to] . . . realize that, ‘Hey,
these people are funding our franchise with their pocket money.
We shouldn’t scare the living daylights out of them.’ ” Fans were,
she explained to me, “a part of your marketing budget that you
don’t have to pay for.”

Lawver’s story was confirmed by Warner Bros. Marc Brandon,
now a vice president at Warner, was the contact with whom Lawver
worked. He saw the history much as she did. “There was a ‘bet-
ter safe than sorry’ approach” taken at the start, Brandon told me.
“Why don’t we do as we’ve always done with our trademarks, and
pursue as much protection as is humanly possible?” The answer
to this question was Lawver: she showed them why. And Brandon
was quick to admit that “some mistakes were made.”

Very quickly, Brandon pushed Warner to “approach this from a
practical point of view.” He said, “There’s a legal analysis that hap-
pens, but that was less of the discussion that occurred when this
came up. It was more about how we can allow the fans to enjoy
Warner Bros. properties online while still continu[ing] on with
our interest as a company and a content creator.”

The studio thus “went through an interesting learning process”
about “how to interact productively with the fans.” The “responses
from the fan community,” Brandon explained, “drove [Warner] to
reexamine our approach. The process there was not, ‘Well, let’s sit
down and look at the law and figure out what we need to do.’ It was
really more of a ‘how do we deal with this practically?’ ”

“Practically” meant deciding which kinds of uses Warner
needed to control, and which kinds not. And that line was not
strictly a commercial/noncommercial distinction. Porn and child
exploitation were obviously out, whether commercial or not. But
there was more. “Our main concern was taking the properties
of the company and utilizing them for direct commercial activi-
ties, such as creating consumer products based on [Harry Pot-
ter properties]. . . . But there are other types of commercial uses
that . . . we decided we could live with. . . . Some of those included
banner advertising and affiliate programs.”

This was Lawver’s understanding of a fair deal as well:

    Well, obviously, the line includes whether or not you’re trying to
    make money off of the franchise that someone else owns. That’s
    the most important thing, because I do still respect Warner Bros.’
    right to say, “Hey, you can’t make money off of something that
    we created and we own the rights to.” So, that’s one of the biggest
    things we always tell the kids is that you can’t start a Harry Potter
    site and start confusing the fans and trying to get them to send
    you money. Making money off of it is an absolute no-no.

But part of Lawver’s message to Warner was that the fans were
where the money was. The consequence of (what the lawyers saw
as) this “piracy” was, paradoxically, more money to the “victim.”
So while “making money off of [Warner]” was “an absolute no-no”
for the fans, it was not a no-no for Warner. Indeed, it was the argu-
ment advanced to Warner for why they should just lighten up.

Warner’s Brandon was not eager to frame it in just that way to
me. He believed, as Lawver did, that “Warner Bros. has come to a
place that is very positive and mutually beneficial for, not only the
company, but the fan base as well.” When I pushed him about the
benefit that Warner got, however—when I characterized it as more
profit to the company—he hesitated.

     I think that, as a by-product of that, you certainly get to a benefit
     to both the fan and the company, and I think that that’s what’s
     important to Warner Bros. It’s not solely a commercial interest.
     It’s not an approach of, “Well, let’s use the fan so that we can make
     sure and make a lot of money.” That’s not the number one goal of
     the company.

I let it go. But the hesitation was revealing. What else is Warner
supposed to do, except “make a lot of money”? Sure, it must do that in
a way that doesn’t offend its authors or its audience. But that’s to say,
it should “make a lot of money” over the long run. The unwillingness
even to acknowledge what at some level must be true reveals either
a careful marketing sense or a discomfort with the future. Brandon
had helped build a media hybrid. He hadn’t yet come to terms with
just what that would mean for the company.

Warner had learned that being less restrictive with its intellec-
tual property strengthened fans’ loyalty to the brand and, hence,
the return to its artists. Again, if that is true, then of course Warner
should be less restrictive with its IP. And we all should be happy
about this because (a) Warner’s artists succeed more, and (b) IP
rights will restrict less. Or more precisely, because (b) IP rights are
not restricting in ways that limit the freedom of kids without any
benefit to Warner artists. More freedom is good, especially when
less freedom would help no one.

People still resist this idea, however, by saying that there’s some-
thing unseemly in Warner “exploiting” kids. But I don’t see it that
way. Warner’s “exploitation” consists in giving kids more freedom
than they otherwise would have, under the rights that the law
legitimately grants to Warner. Perhaps you have quibbles with
how broadly the law grants Warner rights. That’s a fair argument
for Congress, but not a fair complaint against Warner. Warner is
releasing rights given to it. Because of my (perhaps retrograde)
views about corporations, I hope it is doing so because it helps it
make money. And because of my (perhaps retrograde) views about
transparency, I would hope we could praise it for doing what it does
for the real reason it does it.

With this freedom (granted to the fan) comes a loss of control
(by the company). Freedom will inspire a wider exposure of the
original content. But as Jenkins puts it, “it also threaten[s] the pro-
ducer’s ability to control public response.”46

Tapscott and Williams make the point more generally:

    So here’s the prosumption [meaning PROfessional + conSUMER]
    dilemma: A company that gives its customers free reign to hack
    risks cannibalizing its business model and losing control of its
    platform. A company that fights its users soils its reputation and
    shuts out a potentially valuable source of innovation.47

Yet at the same time, media companies, as well as businesses
more generally, are recognizing that closer ties with the audience are
the key to profit in the era of the hybrid. As Jenkins writes, “Rather
than talking about media producers and consumers as occupying
separate roles, we might now see them as participants who inter-
act with each other according to a new set of rules that none of us
fully understands.”48 Artists who get this are building “a more col-
laborative relationship with their consumers.”49 And “in the future,”
Jenkins argues, quoting cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken,
“media producers must accommodate consumer demands to partici-
pate or they will run the risk of losing the most active and passionate
consumers to some other media interest that is more tolerant.”50

Harry Potter, of course, is not the only example of Hollywood
leaving the twentieth century. Practically every major franchise of
content is coming to understand the value of the community of fans
who work (for free) to promote their content. My favorite example
is the fandom surrounding the series Lost. Lost is currently in its
fourth season, but it has already become “a model for a new media
age,” as the Los Angeles Times put it.51 The show has encouraged a
wide range of unregulated fan sites—including the wiki Lostpedia
and many more sites on Wikia, as well as twenty other platforms
whose content can be accessed and shared. These sites help view-
ers understand and keep up with the show. They give fans a place
to explore and add to their obsessive understanding of the detail
of the show. And by being free with the content, Lost producers
Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse can avoid their “biggest worry”:
“losing viewers who skip one episode and don’t return because they
become intimidated by the revealing flashback they missed or the
complex plot’s twists and turns.”52

Thus, ABC is using a sharing economy to drive interest and eye-
balls to commercial product. How long this model can be sustained
no one knows. As Lindelof said: “We’re exploring a new frontier
here. . . . So it’s best to see what it is first, as opposed to everybody
walking up to the cash register and saying, ‘Pay me, and then we’ll
do the exploring.’ ”53

Type 3 : Communities

I’ve described community spaces and collaboration spaces, intend-
ing the word “spaces” to reduce a bit the grandness of these other,
big words. One might call Dogster a community. In a sense it is.
But the range of life lived in Dogster is much narrower (one hopes)
than the range of life in a typical community.

Yet there are spaces on the Net that aspire to be more than
community spaces. And some of these spaces do deserve the moni-
ker “community” without any qualifiers. For old-timers, perhaps
the first (and maybe the best) such space was a community called
the Well. But for the generation that knows the Net right now, the
most interesting examples of hybrid communities are virtual spaces
like Second Life.

Second Life

Think of Second Life as a world that a character you create gets to
travel to. Once in that world, the character gets to do just about any-
thing. The character (or, forgive me, but better, “you”) can hang out
with others. Buy some designer clothes. Create a new kind of motorcy-
cle. Buy some land to build a house. Grow flowers. Basically anything
you can do in real life, you can do in Second Life, so long as you’ll let
the word “virtually” attach to much of what you do. You can have a
long conversation with someone you met in a virtual hot tub. You can
explore the extraordinary virtual worlds that others have built. You
can build an extraordinary virtual world that others can explore.

Of course, there’s nothing about virtual worlds that makes people
more virtuous. So as well as all these things that we’d be proud to tell
our parents about (or happy our kids did), there is lots that happens
in Second Life that we’d never tell anyone about, or that we might
wish our kids would never do. Sex is the organizing term for this
set of stuff. Second Life has lots of virtual sex. Some you might have
no problem with—consenting virtual adults, and all that. Some you
might have lots of trouble with—consenting virtual adulterers. But
some you might wonder whether you should have any problem with:
Would you be happier if your son was experimenting with real space?
Would it be better if your roaming spouse was meeting someone at
a bathhouse? Sure, the virtual both creates and satisfies demand.
Maybe without Second Life, your spouse wouldn’t wander at all.

People doing what they want to do doesn’t on its own create
a sharing economy, any more than the passengers on an Airbus
310 constitute a sharing economy simply because they all happen
to want to fly to Canada. Second Life, like Vegas, gives people a
chance to do something they want to do. And people spend hun-
dreds of hours doing that. But much of the stuff that members of
Second Life do is stuff that builds value for Second Life. Linden
Lab, the creator of Second Life, has built a “ ‘product’ that invites
and enables customers to collaborate and add value on a massive
scale.”54 The members do this with one another (mainly) for free;
the product of what they do for free is a much richer, more interest-
ing virtual world for Linden Lab to sell membership to.

We can measure the community here by mapping the range of
public goods (meaning goods which everyone in the community
gets to share) that community members create.

First, Second Lifers contribute the good of help. A significant
percentage of Second Lifers hang about, trying to help newbies as
they learn the ropes. As the chief Second Lifer (i.e., the Boss), Philip
Rosedale, described to me,

    Second Life is a daunting environment because, obviously, it’s so
    rich with capability. And, so, as a new user to it, you are bound to
    be frightened, confused by, or frustrated in your attempts to do
    pretty much anything that you’re trying to do. And, I think what
    has come of that has been quite interesting.55

For, he continued:

    Once you have figured out how Second Life really works, what tends
    to happen is you then have a kind of currency that you can freely give,
    which is your advice and explanation of how things work. And, I
    think that that behavior is so prevalent. It’s so pleasurable to tell a new
    person what to do, and they get so much from it, as well, and are so
    thankful and then you just have that natural, I don’t know . . . I think
    there’s a natural pleasure that we take as humans in being able to help
    somebody else that, I would say, that the general idea of helping each
    other in the environment is a very strong one, and you see, nowadays,
    you see numerous cases of that happening in a way that doesn’t . . . isn’t
    really, I suppose, economically rational at a tactical scale.

So does that mean Second Life was constructed to create this kind
of community? “No,” Rosedale said with some resignation. “I don’t
think we’ve explicitly tried to make things hard in Second Life. I
think we managed to accidentally do that pretty well.”

Second, Second Lifers contribute the gift of beauty. Like people
in a well-kept neighborhood, Second Lifers spend endless hours
making their property beautiful. Not just to make it salable, but
also to make the neighborhood more attractive. They build new
designs; they add painted posters or images; they craft gardens, or
parks where people can meet.

Third, Second Lifers contribute code. According to the com-
pany, some 15 percent write “scripts” in Second Life, meaning the
code that builds things or places that others can see. A significant
portion of those code writers—at least 30 percent—make their
code free for others to share.

Fourth, Second Lifers have built institutions that make Second
Life work better. One member, for example, Zarf Vantongerloo,
decided Second Life needed a way to authenticate statements or
promises (as in contracts). Using encryption technology, Zarf built
a Notary (“Nota Bene” in a land called “Thyris”). When a person
signs the document, the Nota Bene adds a cryptographic signa-
ture which verifies both that the signature of the parties is genuine
and that the text on the document hasn’t been changed since it was
signed. The program is open-source, and uses open-source encryp-
tion routines (providing a way for people to trust that the program
does what it says it does). The code thus adds a bit of confidence into
the system, one “baby step” to better governance, as Zarf put it.56

Finally, Second Lifers struggle through acts of self-governance.
The city of Neualtenburg (literally, New-Old-City) is an example of
this. Neualtenburg describes itself as a “one-of-a-kind self-governed
community, whose purpose is to (1) enable group ownership of
high-quality public and private land; (2) create a themed yet expres-
sive community of one-of-a-kind builds; and (3) implement demo-
cratic forms of self government within Second Life.”57

The city builds this community through a mix of architecture,
culture, law, and politics. Unlike most spaces in Second Life, the
design of Neualtenburg resembles a medieval Bavarian city—
wandering, organic, nonrectangular. The city is designed to be a
“nexus for progressive social experimentation . . . including modern
art . . . political organizations . . . and education.” And the city was
the first “democratic republic” built within Second Life. It has a
nonprofit land cooperative; it has offered the first “well-defined
investment bonds”; and it has Second Life’s first and only constitu-
tion. In addition, the government offers well-defined and binding
land deeds and covenants, and a virtual-world legal system.

These are all the sorts of things that members of any community
do. They all create a kind of value that more than the creator gets to
share. And as with any community, the more people contribute, and
see others contribute, the richer everyone feels. Indeed, for many, the
richness of the life they know in Second Life exceeds the richness of
the life they can live in real life. As Sherry Turkle reported from one
user of a different but related world more than a decade ago,

    I split my mind. I’m getting better at it. I can see myself as being two
    or three or more. And I just turn on one part of my mind and then
    another when I go from window to window. I’m in some kind of
    argument in one window and trying to come on to a girl in a MUD
    in another, and another window might be running a spreadsheet
    program or some other technical thing for school. . . . And then I’ll
    get a real-time message [that flashes on the screen as soon as it is
    sent from another system user], and I guess that’s RL [real life]. It’s
    just one more window . . . and it’s not usually my best one.58

Second Life is of course not the only virtual place in which peo-
ple build this sort of community. Many (perhaps most) of the most
interesting virtual games have this component built in. Japanese
entrepreneur and venture capitalist (and gamer) Joi Ito describes
the community in perhaps the Net’s most popular game, World of
Warcraft: “[T]he game emphasizes the necessity for a group. As
an individual, you realize that the only way that you could create
a group is by sharing and by being friendly.” This is a lesson espe-
cially important for kids.

    So a lot of times when young kids start playing World of Warcraft, in
    the beginning they’re very greedy. They look at it as a game and they
    don’t look at these other people inside of this game as real people.
    They will do something stupid in the middle of a raid, or they’ll go
    off and leave the game without saying anything, and do something
    that will cause him to be mean, so . . . they realize that they quickly
    lose their community. Once you lose your community, you’re unable
    to then go off and even set foot inside of certain dungeons and things
    like that without the right kind of . . . without a group.

The game thus “pushes you to help each other. . . . It is very difficult
to play by yourself, and being nice to people and gaining friend-
ship is rewarded.” The design thickens the community as a way to
improve the play of the game.

Around these sharing economies, companies like Second Life
build business. They thus try to extract profits from the sharing of
others. And again, in my (what to some seems) Neanderthal view,
this search for profits is to be praised. Of course, everyone should
understand just what’s happening. Transparency is key. But assum-
ing this understanding, the success of the company means a greater
opportunity for community by the members. There may be squab-
bles about the terms: Should it be cheaper? Should the company
make more? But the structure of the deal is not a mystery. Linden
Lab will, if successful, make money by giving its customers just
what they want: more than just a service, an experience that gives
at least some of the rewards of any sharing economy.

So far, the description of this hybrid has been at the content
layer of Second Life. In 2007 Linden Lab took one further step
down the hybrid path, by “open-sourcing” the client with which
one interacts with Second Life. The code for that client was placed
under the Free Software Foundation’s General Public License
(GPL), meaning the source was free for anyone to tinker with, and
modifications of the source when distributed had to be distributed
openly as well.

Rosedale’s motivations for this change are mixed. One part is
the belief in his company, and the belief that it should grow as fast
as possible. Second Life makes people better; Second Life should
therefore grow as quickly as possible.

    And, it just seemed that, if your mission as a company is to grow as
    quickly as you can, which very much is our mission, not just from
    the “make money” perspective but actually, I think, primarily from
    the perspective, which I’ve talked about in our blog quite a bit, we
    broadly believe that this is a force for good. That as people use Sec-
    ond Life it is a statistical improver in one’s quality of life. And, if
    that’s true, then we should allow it to grow as quickly as people
    want it to, and we should criticize ourselves if there’s a moment at
    which we maximize revenue at the cost of growth or maintain some
    degree of control that, if we had given it up, would have caused this
    thing to grow faster. So, we made the decision to open-source.

Second, the decision was driven by the recognition of how much
value Linden Lab might leverage from its community:

    And, so, we went ahead and put the pieces in place, but the core belief
    was that there were—we only have about thirty principal developers
    at this point—and the belief was that there would be hundreds if
    not thousands of people who would be willing to contribute develop-
    ment time and that it would therefore be unprincipled of us not to
    allow those people to do so. So, that’s what we’re trying to do. And,
    the early results, as you probably know, are quite positive. We’re get-
    ting patched submissions now every day that we’re folding into the
    code. . . . I don’t think we’ve had enough time beyond the release yet
    of the source code to characterize how many additional virtual devel-
    opers we have, but it’s already more than a few.

So in the end, Second Life will have given away the copyright
to the creativity built in the game, and it will have opened the cli-
ent and servers to the free sharing of a GPL’d software project. In
short, it will have taken just about all its assets and freed them to
the community. And from these gifts, it expects to inspire a creativ-
ity that will make the platform extraordinarily valuable.
It’s been about seventeen years since the World Wide Web became
more than a dream of Tim Berners-Lee. As it has seeped into our
veins, it has changed how we interact. More of us do things for
other people, even if we do it because it is fun. More businesses find
ways to do things for us, because doing so is more profitable for
them. And more are experimenting with ways to build value by
working with a community—commercial economies leveraging
sharing economies to produce hybrids.

What has driven companies to the hybrid experiment? The
answer is the same as it always has been, within competitive mar-
kets at least: the recognition of success. Companies see the hybrid
as a model of success, not as a compromise of profit. Tapscott and
Williams summarize the lesson for companies building a hybrid
consistent with the principles of “wikinomics” (openness, peering,
sharing, and acting globally): 59

    What was the difference [between successful business and not]?
    The losers launched Web sites. The winners launched vibrant
    communities. The losers built walled gardens. The winners built
    public squares. The losers innovated internally. The winners inno-
    vated with their users. The losers jealously guarded their data and
    software interface. The winners shared them with everyone.60

Hybrids are also a model for getting others to innovate in ways that
benefit the company. Tapscott and Williams quote Technorati’s
Tantek Çelik: “It comes down to a question of limited time and,
frankly, limited creativity. No matter how smart you are, and no
matter how hard you work, three or four people in a start-up—or
even small companies with thirty people—can only come up with
so many great ideas.61

Recognition alone is not enough. Remaining is the hard problem
of building the community to support the hybrid. So how does
community get built?

The answer is: explicitly and upfront. “You have to design with
the community in mind,” Jerry Yang said. “It’s very hard to do . . . as
an afterthought. . . . Community has to be part of the product.”

But communities can’t simply be called into life. Instead, they
have emerged through a number of stages. “The first couple ele-
ments,” Yang told me, were when “the users created content and
the users distributed content.” But that alone could not sustain a
community. “Really critical for a sustainable kind of community,”
Yang said, “is the community themselves as editors—both as to
quality and for the community to continue to have its identity.”
These together meant the community was more than a bus stop (a
place convenient for people to hang out on their way to doing what
they wanted to do). Instead, it was a place where the members felt
a kind of ownership. And that pride of ownership meant they took
steps to improve what they found.

The real challenge, however, comes now, as these online com-
munities begin to offer more. As Yang put it, “People are starting to
really put the economic element in. . . . [They are] starting to make
money from this community, whether it is printing calendars or
doing albums or whatever.”

How this gets done well is not something even Yang fully sees
yet. “There’s no science in this . . . there’s still a lot of art.”

    You know, the community will give you a certain latitude for
    facilitating a commercial business, but they ultimately have to
    feel like they’re the ones that are part of the economy and not you.
    So you have to find a way to balance out the value that you as a
    platform for that community are adding versus the ability for the
    community to benefit from that economy.

“The goal is to make people feel like there are real social benefits
and economic benefits for them to invest in this platform.” And in
an analogy that we will return to at the end of the book, Yang con-
tinued: “It’s not unlike running a government where you’re charg-
ing for certain basic services. If you overcharge, people feel like
they’re overtaxed, and if you don’t charge enough then you don’t
provide enough services. So it’s always a balancing act.”

To say that community is important—or in the terms I’ve been
suggesting, to say the “sharing economy” is important—is obviously
not to say community alone is enough. Nor is it even to say that among
all the factors of success, community is the most important thing. As
perhaps the Net’s most famous publisher, Tim O’Reilly, put it,

    You get your initial enthusiasm from people who are your pas-
    sionate, inner core. And you want to build a system that lets them
    become passionate, become connected, have this personal connec-
    tion to you and what you do. But, to get beyond that, you have to
    build a system in which people participate without knowing that
    they participate. That’s where the power comes.62

For, O’Reilly put it, the most powerful architecture and participa-
tion don’t rely on volunteerism.

    They don’t rely on people explicitly being part of a community
    or knowing who’s in the community. . . . [T]he Web is like that.
    It’s this brilliant architecture where everybody puts up their own
    Web site for their own reasons, links to other people for their own
    reasons, and yet, there is a creation of shared value.

O’Reilly points to YouTube as an example. YouTube’s success, he
argues (agreeing again with Chen), came not from the rah-rah of
the community activism. Its success came instead from great code:
YouTube’s success, O’Reilly explained to me,

    wasn’t because [people] thought it was cool. It was because YouTube
    figured out better how to make it viral. Viral is about making it serve
    the people’s own interest, so that they’re participating without think-
    ing that they’re participating. Google said, “Upload your video here
    and we’ll host it,” and YouTube with their Flash player said, “Either
    put this video on your site or we’ll host it anyway.” So you get to share
    the video without any of the costs and with no-muss-no-fuss.

“People aren’t thinking,” he continued, “that they are donating to
YouTube. They’re actually thinking, ‘Wow! I’m getting a free ser-
vice from YouTube.’ ”

O’Reilly’s point is a good one. It builds directly on Bricklin’s. You
create value by giving people what they want; you create good by
designing what you’re offering so that people getting what they want
also give something back to the community. No one builds hybrids
on community sacrifice. Their value comes from giving members of
the community what they want in a way that also gives the commu-
nity something it needs. The old part in this story is that in a compet-
itive market, success comes from satisfying customers’ demands. The
new part is to recognize a wider range of wants, some me-motivated,
some thee-motivated, and the way technology can help serve them.

                    ECONOMY LESSONS

When commercial and sharing economies interact, they pro-
duce the hybrid. How they sustain a hybrid successfully is a
harder question. We’ve not yet seen enough to say anything conclu-
sive. We have seen enough to describe a few important lessons.

                 Parallel Economies Are Possible

The simplest but perhaps most important conclusion is that parallel
economies are possible. Work successfully licensed in a commercial
economy can also be freely available in a sharing economy. If this
weren’t true, then there would be no commercial record industry
at all: despite the war on file sharing, practically every bit of com-
mercially available music is also available illegally on p2p networks;
this “sharing” has not been stanched by either the war against it
waged by the recording industry, or the Supreme Court’s declaring
the practice illegal.1

Yet despite this massive sharing, according to the recording
industry’s own statistics, sales of music have declined by 21 percent.2
If parallel economies were not possible, that 21 percent would be 100

Voluntary parallel economies are also possible and often profit-
able. When labels discovered artists in ccMixter and then signed
them to record deals or contracts, the work the artist had freely
licensed continued to be free. Indeed, sometimes the very same
song was licensed both commercially and noncommercially. This
helped the commercial. More artists and record companies will do
the same in the future.

              Tools Help Signal Which Economy
                    a Creator Creates For

As creators choose between these two economies, the market has
developed—free of government intervention—tools to signal which
economy they intend to be a part of. When they want to be part of
the commercial economy exclusively, they have associated with the
traditional representatives. The RIAA, for example, speaks well for
those artists who want their art distributed according to the rules
of a commercial market only. “All Rights Reserved” is the famil-
iar refrain. “Don’t share” is the unfortunately familiar slogan. But
when artists want to create for the sharing economy, increasingly
they use signs that mark them as members of this economy. Tools
such as the Creative Commons “Noncommercial” license enable an
artist to say “take and share my work freely. Let it become part of
the sharing economy. But if you want to carry this work over to the
commercial economy, you must ask me first. Depending upon the
offer, I may or may not say yes.”3

This sort of signal encourages others to participate in the shar-
ing economy, giving them confidence that their gift won’t be used
for purposes inconsistent with the gift. It thus encourages this sort
of gift economy—not by belittling or denigrating the commer-
cial economy, but simply by recognizing the obvious: that humans
act for different motives, and the motive to give deserves as much
respect as the motive to get.

                 Crossovers Are Growing

As the second lesson suggests, nothing bans crossovers. There’s
nothing wrong, for example, with an artist who created something
she offered the sharing economy for free then taking that creative
work and selling it to NBC or Warner Bros. Records. Indeed, this
happens all the time in the world of CC-licensed work. Because
economies can be parallel, many participants have discovered that
playing in one economy does not disqualify you in the other.

In 2005, for example, a Los Angeles–based comedy collective
called Lonely Island was trying—like many such collectives—to
get discovered. It posted all its material to the Web with a Creative
Commons license, enabling others to share its work and remix its
work, so long as they gave credit back to Lonely Island. For example,
the collective shot a pilot for Fox called Awesometown. Fox rejected
it, but Lonely Island posted the pilot in full on the Web under a CC
license. The collective used the license both to encourage the spread
of its work and, as its members commented in an interview, to “pro-
tect ourselves and our fans. That’s what sold us on it. It lets everyone
know that they are free to share and remix our stuff, all the rules
are right there—they don’t even need to ask permission.”4

Someone at Saturday Night Live saw the group’s work and loved
it. In the fall of 2005, one member of the collective joined SNL as a
cast member; the other two joined as writers. Their work continues
to be available under the CC license. But the licenses also helped
them cross over to a commercial economy.

     Strong Incentives Will Increasingly Drive
          Commercial Entities to Hybrids

Their rhetoric notwithstanding, hybrids are in it for the money.
Commercial entities leveraging sharing economies do so because
they believe their product or service will be more valuable if lever-
aged. And sharing economies that bring commerce into the mix do
so because they believe revenues will increase. The hybrid is a way
to produce value. If it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be a hybrid.

The hybrid produces value in part by freely revealing informa-
tion. By its nature, a hybrid can’t control exclusively the knowledge
or practice of the sharing economy it builds upon. The design thus
leaves the door open on its research or development. The company
simply gives this asset away.

Some are puzzled by the idea that giving something away
might be a strategy for making more money. Indeed, our intellec-
tual biases about concepts like property lead us almost naturally to
believe that the best strategy to produce wealth is to maximize con-
trol over the assets we have, including (and most important here)
intellectual-property assets.

If you find yourself attracted to this view, then you should sur-
vey an increasingly significant field of writing about the opposite
strategy, used voluntarily by those seeking the same end: wealth.
As Eric von Hippel describes, “Innovations developed at private
cost are often revealed freely, and this behavior makes economic
sense for participants under commonly encountered conditions.”5
For example, “after the expiration of the Watt patent, an engineer
named Richard Trevithick developed a new type of high-pressure
engine in 1812. Instead of patenting his invention, he made his
design available to all for use without charge.”6 The work spread to
be foundational in the field. Von Hippel’s work provides a host of
modern examples that follow the same strategy.

These innovators reveal not as an act of charity, but as a strat-
egy to better returns. “Active efforts to diffuse information about
their innovations suggest that there are positive, private rewards to
be obtained from free revealing.”7 Put differently, intentional “spill-
overs” of information may often benefit both the public and the pri-
vate entity making the spillover.

Again, to many, this may feel counterintuitive. Economics
teaches us that a spillover (meaning a resource that is made available
to entities that didn’t contribute to its production) is an externality
(albeit, a positive externality). Externalities, the lesson goes, should
be “internalized.” Whether it is positive (think: beautiful music) or
negative (think: pollution), the person creating the spillover should
pay for it—whether positively (by cleaning up the pollution), or
negatively (by collecting some reward for the good produced to the
public). As von Hippel writes,

    The “private investment model” of innovation assumes that inno-
    vation will be supported by private investment if and as innova-
    tors can make attractive profits from doing so. In this model, any
    free revealing or uncompensated “spillover” or proprietary knowl-
    edge developed by private investment will reduce the innovator’s
    profits. It is therefore assumed that innovators will strive to avoid
    spillovers of innovation-related information. From the perspec-
    tive of this model, then, free revealing is a major surprise: it seems
    to make no sense that innovators would intentionally give away
    information for free that they had invested money to develop.8

But in fact, historically, spillovers have produced great value to
society. William Baumol estimates that “the spillovers of innova-
tion, both direct and indirect, can be estimated to constitute well
over half of current GDP—and it can even be argued that this is
a very conservative figure.”9 The Internet is the simplest example:
the “inventors” of the Internet captured a tiny fraction of its value;
the spillover has been critical to most economic growth in America
over the past fifteen years.

That good is enjoyed not just by the society. Instead, it is also
often (though certainly not always) enjoyed by the person revealing
the information. Describing authors of open-source software, for
example, von Hippel writes,

    [If] they freely reveal, others can debug and improve upon the
    modules they have contributed, to everyone’s benefit. They are
    also motivated to have their improvement incorporated into the
    standard version of the open source software that is generally dis-
    tributed by the volunteer open source user organization, because
    it will then be updated and maintained without further effort on
    the innovator’s part.10

These considerations lead many to conclude, with Baumol,
that “despite the substantial spillovers (externalities) of innovation,
expenditure on R&D in the free-market economies may neverthe-
less be quite efficient.”11 Put differently, of all the problems we need
to solve, eliminating positive externalities should perhaps be quite
low on our list.

So when does it make sense to reveal information in order to
build a hybrid? One factor is the heterogeneity of the customers.
“Data are still scanty,” von Hippel writes, “but high heterogeneity
[or diversity] of need is a very straightforward explanation for why
there is so much customization by users: many users have ‘custom’
needs for products and services.”12 Another factor is the feedback
companies get from this kind of collaborative innovation. Again,
von Hippel: “the commercial attractiveness of innovations devel-
oped by users increased along with the strength of those users’ lead
user characteristics.”13 Encouraging these “lead users” to innovate is
thus a powerful way to push innovation at the firm.14

While hybrids will increase with the spread of the Net, I am
not describing some special rule of economics that lives just in the
virtual world. Indeed, to the extent that the hybrid is spreading the
right to innovate, the dynamic is again following the very old prin-
ciple I described above: shifting innovation out of the core of the
corporation where transaction costs permit.

The hybrid teaches us that this strategy will increase as technologies
for reducing transaction costs proliferate. And conversely, it would be
checked by changes that increase the transaction costs of the hybrid.

      Perceptions of Fairness Will in Part Mediate
        the Hybrid Relationship Between Sharing
                  and Commercial Economies

We are not far into the history of these hybrid economies. And
early enthusiasm will no doubt soon give way to a more measured,
perhaps skeptical view. Those contributing to the sharing economy
within a hybrid will increasingly wonder about this world where
their free work gets exploited by someone else. Should they be
paid? How long will these hybrids last?

Some fear it won’t last long. At a conference in San Francisco,
Rich Green, an executive vice president for software at Sun, expressed
doubt. “It really is a worrisome social artifact,” Green said. “I think
in the long term that this . . . [is] not sustainable. We are looking very
closely at compensating people for the work that they do.”15

But as we’ve seen, simply compensating people is not necessarily
a solution. The ethic of a sharing economy and that of a commercial
economy are different. Were the work of these volunteers plainly
part of the commercial economy, then the answer would be easy: of
course, they should be paid; and unless they are paid, they will stop
the work. And were the work of the volunteers plainly part of the
sharing economy, then the answer would be easy as well: you no
more pay volunteers than you (should) pay for sex.

If the work of these volunteers is part of a hybrid, however, we
don’t yet have a clear answer to this question. If the hybrid feels
too commercial, that saps the eagerness of the volunteers to work.
Brewster Kahle founded the nonprofit Internet Archive after prof-
iting from many commercial enterprises, as he told me: “If you
feel like you are working for the man and not getting paid, vis-
ceral reactions will come up. . . . People have no problem being in
the gift economy. But when it blurs into the for-pay commodity
economy . . . people have a ‘jerk reaction.’ ” A “jerk reaction”: the
feeling that they, the volunteers, are jerks for giving something to
“the man” for free. No sense could be more poisonous to the hybrid
economy, yet like it or not, the skepticism is growing. Said Om
Malik, founder of GigaOmniMedia:

    I wondered out loud if this culture of participation was seem-
    ingly help[ing] build business on our collective backs. So if we tag,
    bookmark, or share, and help or Technorati or Yahoo
    become better commercial entities, aren’t we seemingly commod-
    itizing our most valuable asset—time? We become the outsourced
    workforce, the collective, though it is still unclear what is the pay-
    off. While we may (or may not) gain something from the collec-
    tive efforts, the odds are whatever “the collective efforts” are, they
    are going to boost the economic value of those entities. Will we
    share in their upside? Not likely!16

Anil Dash, a vice president with Six Apart, posed this question
more directly: “Should Flickr compensate the creators of the most
popular pictures on its site?”17 Tapscott and Williams describe the
reply by Caterina Fake, cofounder of Flickr:

    [T]here are systems of value other than, or in addition to,
    money, that are very important to people: connecting with other
    people, creating an online identity, expressing oneself—and, not
    least, garnering other people’s attention. She continued on, saying
    that the Web—indeed the world—would be a much poorer place
    without the collective generosity of its contributors. The culture of
    generosity is the very backbone of the Internet.18

It is hard for many to see how a “culture of generosity” can coex-
ist with an ethic of profit. The slogan “You be generous, and I make
money” seems like a nonstarter. And so increasingly, we must ask
how these different norms might be made to coexist. Jeff Jarvis,
journalist and blogger, suggests companies “pay dividends back to
[the] crowd” and avoid trying too hard “to control [the gathered]
wisdom, and limit its use and the sharing of it.”19 Tapscott and Wil-
liams make the same recommendation: “platforms for participation
will only remain viable for as long as all the stakeholders are ade-
quately and appropriately compensated for their contributions—
don’t expect a free ride forever.”20

The key word here is “appropriately.” Obviously, there must
be adequate compensation. But the kind of compensation is the
puzzle. Once again, the “sharing economy” of two lovers is one in
which both need to be concerned that the other is “adequately and
appropriately compensated for [his or her] contribution.” But writ-
ing a fat check as “thanks for last night” is not likely to work.

Similarly, there’s another important ambiguity in this notion of
a “free ride.” For again, if Bricklin is right—if the entity succeeds
when it is architected to give the user what he wants while contrib-
uting something back to either the commercial entity, the sharing
economy, or the hybrid—then is the entity really getting a “free
ride”? Consider two examples:

 • You submit a search query to Google and then click on one
   of the links Google returns. You have given Google some-
   thing of value—the information that you judged one link to
   be the appropriate answer to the query you selected. Google
   has built its company upon such gifts of value. Is Google rid-
   ing on your work for free? Or are you riding on Google for
 • You post a video to YouTube and then embed it in your
   blog. You have given YouTube something of value—another
   string of customers further strengthening its market share,
   drawing viewers in through a channel that helps YouTube
   understand who they are, and hence advertise to them more
   profitably. Is YouTube riding on your work for free? Or are
   you riding on YouTube?

The point should be obvious: both the user and the company ben-
efit from the interaction. And when both benefit, how do we say
who is riding for free?

These questions, however, like any questions of perceived jus-
tice, won’t be decided on the basis of logic alone. They will turn
instead upon practices and understandings. There are lines that
companies can’t cross. Those lines are drawn by the understand-
ing of those within a community. To their communities, hybrids
will try to signal their virtue, or the fairness of the exchange they
offer. Craig Newmark, for example, emphasizes moderation as
a key to his hybrid’s success. (“People see that we’re not out to
make lots of money, and people can see that we’ve given away a
lot of power over the site through the flagging mechanism and
how we actually try to listen to people in terms of suggestions and
then follow through.”) Tim O’Reilly makes a similar point, though
not about moderate profits. He emphasizes moderate efforts at

    There is a social compact. . . . [And] people in some sense will
    regard certain people as good guys and so they’ll go further for
    them than they would for somebody who they regarded as a hos-
    tile. A really good example of that is . . . Safari, our online book
    service. We have a very light DRM [for those books, making] it
    hard to spider. But not too hard. . . . And we get thousands of e-
    mails from people reporting that to us. You know, “Hey, I found
    your books on a site in Russia.” “I found your books on a site in
    Romania.” I bet the RIAA didn’t get those e-mails.

Philip Rosedale of Second Life emphasizes a different value:
transparency. “I’m a tremendous believer in the idea that there’s a
new mode by which businesses can interact which is based on com-
plete transparency,” he explained to me.

    There’s a trust-building exercise there that doesn’t traditionally
    happen, because companies are inherently private because his-
    torically, competition was the first order of concern of companies.
    Therefore privacy [or secrecy], for the purpose of giving you a leg
    up on your competitors, has always been a kind of a central build-
    ing block of corporate behavior. And, in a world where openness
    and network effects are likely to decide the winner, you now have
    to break down that perception. You want to build a company
    whose first value is not privacy but, instead, disclosure.

Some companies go even further. Brewster Kahle describes the
decision of the search company Alexa.

    [W]e wanted to build a new-generation search engine, which is
    sort of what Alexa and the Internet Archive strove to do in ’96. It
    turns out that we were wrong, that the world didn’t need a fun-
    damentally different kind of search engine, because the search
    engines were going along okay. But Alexa would collect the
    World Wide Web and make a service based on it. So that it was a
    for-profit company that leveraged the community work of others,
    which was the contents of the Web, to produce a service.

    But exploiting that material beyond being directly tied to pro-
    ducing that service, we at Alexa did not feel it was right. So Alexa
    donated a copy of what it had collected to a nonprofit and deleted
    its own. So after six months, that was how long it took for Alexa to
    use the material to do the service that people were, in some sense,
    cooperating [with] or allowing Alexa to have built. It donated a
    copy, and it deleted theirs. We think of that as very . . . we thought
    of that as a very important part of the balance of the property
    interest in a commercial company and the public interest that can
    be better served within a nonprofit.

Every company building a hybrid will face exactly the same
challenge: how to frame its work, and the profit it expects, in a way
that doesn’t frighten away the community. “Mutual free riding”
will be the mantra, at least if the value to both sides can be made
more clear.

There are of course famous examples of this mutual free rid-
ing gone bad. The volunteer-created CD Database— CDDB—
was one.

As I’ve already described, CDDB was an online database that
contained track information about CDs. That information was
not included on the CD itself. Instead, it was added by users. The
inventor of CDDB, Ti Kan, thought “[I]f I typed in all this infor-
mation about a given CD, why should Joe down the block have to
type in the same information,” as David Marglin, general coun-
sel of the company that eventually took over CDDB, Gracenote,
explained to me. So Kan and his collaborator, Steve Scherf, “started
figuring out a way to collect various other people’s collections as
typed in by them. And then that repository became the CDDB.”

All this typing was done voluntarily. People wanted their
machines to know what the tracks were; they were happy to share
with others the information they typed into their machines. And
Kan and Scherf built the tools to aggregate the results of this vol-
untary work “with the best intentions in the world. They were not
trying to make any money off of it. They really wanted to make
just a social network and get all the network effects.” They built a
commons for others to add to; volunteers demonstrated the “grace
of the commons” through the contributions they made.

But, Marglin explained to me, as more and more people began
to rely upon this database to identify their CDs, Kan and Scherf
began to realize “very quickly that they had a beast on their hands
because: one, in order to be any good, the software would have to
do a lot more reconciling than they first expected . . . and two, the
amount of server space that they would need in order to take in, not
only all the lookups, but . . . all the submissions, was just going to
overwhelm them.”21

So the founders of CDDB started looking for a way to make
sure their creation would survive.

Gracenote would become their savior. With the help of a serial
entrepreneur, Scott Jones, Tan and Scherf launched the for-profit
Gracenote, to generate the revenues necessary to support the data-
base, and to profit from the idea they had brought to life. Grace-
note started licensing the database to whoever would pay for it.
And soon many started to wonder why this thing of value, created
through the work of volunteers, could be so easily sold. Many com-
plained that Gracenote took “what [was] essentially an open-source
database and clos[ed] it off.”22 There was an explosion of criticism
within the online community.

Gracenote wasn’t prepared for the criticism. Marglin told me that
there was a lot of “bad mojo in the air from people who didn’t under-
stand the transition from ‘here’s a couple guys in the garage’ to this ‘it’s
a world-class service that has to be able to power Apple software.’ ”
More transparency would have helped here, as would a clearer way
for the collaborators to benefit. Again, Marglin: “The compensation
may not be dollars but maybe credits or attribution for something
that is of value so that there is a value exchange between the

It was the shift in rules, against the background of different
expectations, that produced a fairly strong reaction against Grace-
note—even though to this day, Gracenote still has “a program
where if you’re a programmer and want to develop a noncommer-
cial application and don’t want to derive any revenue from it, you’re
free to get and use Gracenote software.”

Many believe this commercialization of a free project weakens
the incentive for volunteers to contribute to it. Brewster Kahle, for
example, holds this view. Gracenote became less after its founders
made more. The same is true for a parallel database, also initially
built by users for free, the Internet Movie Database, or IMDb. As
Brewster explained to me,

    Both [CDDB and IMDb] went off into commercial organiza-
    tions. And there was a feeling of betrayal on the part of those who
    contributed their efforts for free. Because somebody else seemed
    to be taking advantage of them or not offering it back to the
    Now with IMDb, Amazon is thrilled that they are paying
    their own bills based on their advertising and subscription-based
    premium products. . . . But did IMDb end up what it could have
    been? I don’t think so.

The conflict here is deeper than the Internet. It will get resolved
in the hybrid economy only when each economy—the commer-
cial and the sharing—validates the other. If those within a sharing
economy hate commerce—if they’re disgusted with the idea of any-
one profiting, anywhere—then the prospects for healthy hybrids
are not good. Likewise, if those within the commercial economy
ignore the ethic of sharing—if they treat members of the sharing
economy like customers, or kids—then the prospects for a healthy
hybrid are not good either.

Not surprisingly, copyright is an important tool in mediating
these expectations. As a fantastic report by the analysts Pike &
Fischer argues,

    Strict copyright enforcement on user-submitted/generated content
    may also result in a negative shift in attitude in the communities
    that build around all these sites. The widespread appeal of user-
    submitted/generated content, especially within the framework
    of social networking sites, relies strongly upon the freedom of
    expression, which often circumvents copyright law. Any further
    restriction to that expression may result in a reduction of user activ-
    ity—the lifeblood of an advertising revenue–based business model.
    In the end, copyright holders and social networking sites may be
    forced to strike a balance in order to maintain user-interest.23

The norm that would encourage a hybrid economy most is
the norm of many within the GNU/Linux community: any use,
including commercial use, is fair. The problem with this norm
in the context of culture (as opposed to software) is that cultural
products are less obviously collaborative. The feeling of individual
exploitation is therefore much more likely to be real. When Google
takes the free labor of the GNU/Linux community and leverages
it into the most successful Internet business in the world, no mem-
ber of that community could reasonably say, “Google has exploited
me!” But if Sony took a song licensed in a similarly free way and
sold 1 million CDs without giving the creator a dime (again, plainly
possible under a copyleft license), there’s little doubt that someone
would have a strong claim of exploitation.

More problematically, free software rests ultimately upon a
shaky economic foundation. Robert Young, for example, following
the GNU Manifesto,24 explains the free-software ethic as a version
of the Golden Rule: “There’s no ideology. There’s no complexity. It’s
do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And if they’re
doing unto you what you are doing for them, they’re welcome to
use your technology for whatever they want to use it for because
you’re receiving a benefit from them.” This states a beautiful ethical
principle. But it doesn’t quite constitute an economic motivation.
No doubt “you’re receiving a benefit from them.” But you could
receive that benefit whether or not you contributed your technology
back. It might well be the “fair thing” to give back because you’ve
taken. I certainly hope my kids think this way. The hard part is
believing that over time, many will continue to believe that giving
back makes sense.

Or more skeptically still: There are lots of reasons to believe
that the particular character of free software makes it rational to
keep the code free—for example, the costs of synchronizing a pri-
vate version often overwhelm any benefit from keeping the code
private.25 IBM, for example, was free to take the Apache server and
build a private label version that would sell, without releasing to
others any improvement it made in the code. But that benefit would
have been purchased only by IBM’s continuing to update its code
to reflect changes made in the public version of Apache. At first
(when the code bases are close), such updating is not too hard. But
over time (as the code bases diverge), it becomes increasingly costly
to maintain the private code. Thus the purely rational strategy for
this kind of creativity is to innovate in the commons, since the cost
of innovating privately outweighs the benefit.

But that story hangs upon the physical characteristics of com-
plex coding projects. Those same characteristics don’t exist with,
say, a song or a novel. Whatever incentive there may be to stay in
the commons with complex, collaborative goods, that same incen-
tive doesn’t carry over automatically to all creative works. For
these works, nothing more than a norm will support keeping the
resource open. And whether, or how, that norm survives is not, to
me at least, clear.

It is clear to me, however, that we must avoid a kind of
intellectual imperialism. We must be open to the differences in
cultural goods—software versus movies; music versus scientific
articles. The norms that support free production in one are not
necessarily the norms that support free production in the other. As
Brian Behlendorf, a cofounder of the Apache project, puts it,

    I don’t know if there is one single, social contract amongst cultural
    works. I think it’s different for DJs and electronic music than it is
    for folk music or even different types of dance music. [For exam-
    ple, the] R & B community has appropriated a lot of tracks and
    a lot of song examples yet probably would fight fiercely with the
    RIAA against downloading of their work and such.

He points to another important difference as well:

    A lot of software is, by its nature, a team effort with lots of
    iterations over time. A lot of cultural media—songs or plays or
    movies—are, if they have teams, much smaller teams where they
    tend to be the vision of one or two people. And they arrive at a
    finished body of work or mostly finished work and then it’s kind
    of put in a time capsule. . . . [M]aybe it’s this evolutionary nature
    of software, the fact that contributors come and go over time and
    that, sure, you have certain versions that are well known and such,
    but it’s not like movies where there’s a finished work that makes its
    way to the theater and people pay money to go see it.

We need to understand these differences to envision the lines
communities will draw.

      “Sharecropping” Is Not Likely to Become
                 a Term of Praise

Although I am uncertain about how these norms will develop
generally, there are particular conclusions we can draw with con-
fidence. Here’s one: digital sharecropping will not be long for this
world. Of all the terms that creators from the sharing economy will
demand, the right to own their creativity will be central.


In April 2007, an excellent research assistant did a survey of
every site she could find that invited creators to “remix” or “mash
up” content provided by the site. There were over twenty-five sites
in her survey. But as she read through the terms of these many
remix contests, a key difference among them became apparent. In
56 percent of the sites, the artist or remixer owned the rights to his
remix—not the content he remixed, but the remix. Sixteen per-
cent of these sites required that the remix be licensed under some
form of public license (okay, all of those that did require a license
required that it be a Creative Commons license). But in 28 percent
of these sites, the artist or remixer got no rights in her work at all.
She was the creator, but she did not own her creativity. She was, in
the totally neutral, noninflammatory terminology that I’ve selected
here, a sharecropper.

David Bowie’s contests were typical. Bowie’s contract required
that the remixer “grant, sell, transfer, assign and convey . . . all pres-
ent and future rights, title and interest of every kind and nature”
in the remix. The remixer also waived any moral rights he might
“feel” he had in the remix. And the remixer granted to Bowie’s label,
Sony, “worldwide royalty-free, irrevocable, non-exclusive license” to
any content added to the Bowie content to make the remix.26 Thus,
if you composed a track and uploaded to the Bowie site to remix it
with something Bowie created, then Bowie was free to take that
track and sell it, or use it in his own music, without paying you, the
artist, anything.

This trend away from artists owning their creations is not new.
It has long been a part of commercial creativity. In America, for
example, the “work-for-hire” doctrine strips the creator of any
rights in a creative work made for a corporation, vesting the copy-
right instead in that corporation.

This is an awful trend, fundamentally distorting the copyright
system by vesting copyrights in entities that effectively live forever.
(For that reason, the copyright given to humans is life plus seventy,
but to corporations, a fixed ninety-five years. Unfortunately, unlike
humans seventy years after their death, after ninety-five years there
is still an “artist” eagerly begging Congress for more.)

Yet whether or not the work-for-hire doctrine flourishes in the
commercial economy, my sense—and no doubt, my bias—is that
sharing-economy creators will increasingly demand at a minimum
that their rights remain theirs.

We’ve already seen a similar frustration brew in the context
of “fan fiction,” particularly around the Star Wars franchise. As
with the Harry Potter story, Lucasfilm learned early on that there
were millions who wanted to build upon Star Wars, and few who
thought themselves restricted by the rules of copyright. Like War-
ner, Lucasfilm recognized that these fans could provide real value
to the franchise. So under the banner of encouraging this fan cul-
ture, Lucasfilm offered free Web space to anyone wanting to set up
a fan home page.

But the fine print in this offer struck many as unfair. The con-
tract read:

    The creation of derivative works based on or derived from the
    Star Wars Properties, including, but not limited to, products, ser-
    vices, fonts, icons, link buttons, wallpaper, desktop themes, on-
    line postcards and greeting cards and unlicensed merchandise
    (whether sold, bartered or given away) is expressly prohibited. If
    despite these Terms of Service you do create any derivative works
    based on or derived from the Star Wars Properties, such derivative
    works shall be deemed and shall remain the property of Lucasfilm
    Ltd. in perpetuity.

Translation: “Work hard here, Star Wars fans, to make our fran-
chise flourish, but don’t expect that anything you make is actually
yours. You, Star Wars fans, are our sharecroppers. Be happy with
the attention we give you. But don’t get too uppity.”

These terms incited something of a riot among the fans. As one
of their leading spokesmen put it, “The real story is a lot uglier, and
has much less to do with the encouragement of creativity than its
discouragement—there’s nothing innocent about Lucasfilm’s offer
of web space to fans.”27

“Nothing innocent,” again because all ownership went to
Lucasfilm. Fans may well agree not to profit from their work; they
may well think it fair that any commercial opportunity arising
out of Star Wars be ultimately within the reach of George Lucas.
(Remember, this was the good sense expressed by Heather Lawver,
leader of the Potter Wars.) But that concession does not mean the
fans believe that their work too should be owned by George Lucas.
And so when Lucasfilm pushed to the contrary, these fans pushed

Lucasfilm, however, does not seem to be deterred. In 2007, the
company launched a mash-up site to encourage creators to mash up
scenes from the Star Wars series with their own music or images
uploaded to the Lucasfilm server. Who owned the mash-ups? No
surprise: Lucasfilm. But here’s the part that really gets me: As
with David Bowie’s site, if you upload, say, music you have writ-
ten to be included in a mash-up that you have made, you not only
lose the rights to the mash-up, you also lose exclusive rights to your
music. Lucasfilm has a perpetual, and free, right to your content,
for both commercial and noncommercial purposes. Once again:

I’m not saying that this virtual sharecropping should be banned.
Instead, I am asking which types of hybrid are likely to thrive. A
hybrid that respects the rights of the creator—both the original
creator and the remixer—is more likely to survive than one that
doesn’t. That’s not because everyone will care about the rights of
ownership offered by a particular site. They won’t. But competition
is won on the margin. And the ham-handed overreaching of the
typical Hollywood lawyer is just the sort of blunder most likely to
spoil the success of an otherwise successful hybrid.

Think again about what the Lucasfilm site says to the kids it
invites to remix Lucas’s work. No one doubts that Lucas’s contri-
bution to this site is significant. The Star Wars franchise is one of
the most valuable in history, extraordinarily compelling and cre-
ative, not just to my generation, but to anyone. No one would think
that Lucas has any moral obligation to give up ownership to that
work (at least during the “limited time” period that its copyright
survives). This creativity is rightfully Lucas’s.

But when Lucas invites others to remix that creativity, he does
it for a reason. A financial reason. He wants to leverage the work
of thousands of kids to make his original content more compelling.
And, in turn, to make the franchise more valuable.

There can be nothing wrong with that objective, at least from
my perspective. This is precisely the manner of every hybrid. And
we shouldn’t shrink from acknowledging that profit is one objec-
tive of those within the hybrid mix.

But though the objective of profit is not a problem, the man-
ner in which that profit is secured can be. The respect, or lack of
respect, demonstrated by the terms under which the remix gets
made says something to the remixer about how his work is valued.
So again, when Lucas claims all right to profit from a remix, or
when he claims a perpetual right to profit from stuff mixed with a
remix, he expresses a view about his creativity versus theirs: about
which is more important, about which deserves respect.

To the lawyers who drafted the agreements I’m criticizing
(for I’m sure George Lucas, who is an important contributor to
education, had nothing to do with selecting these terms), my con-
cerns will seem bizarre. They’ve spent their whole career striking
deals just like this. The agreements between media companies,
or media companies and artists, are not love letters. They do not
express mutual respect. A lawyer’s job (at least in a commercial
economy) is to get everything he can. He is to maximize the value
for his client. Social justice is not within his ken.

But these lawyers are the most likely to fail in this new envi-
ronment. They have developed none of the instincts or sensibili-
ties necessary to build loyalty and respect with those in the sharing
economy that their clients depend upon. Like the lawyers work-
ing for union busters at the start of the twentieth century, they’re
proud of precisely the behavior that will cause the most harm to
their clients.

Others will teach them—not through lectures or exams, but
through the success in the market others will have, and that they
(or more accurately, their clients) won’t have. Competitive markets
will reward right behavior. Too bad for their clients, but lawyers
know little of competitive markets. (And tenured law professors
know even less.)

                     The Hybrid Can Help Us
                      Decriminalize Youth

As hybrids for culture have developed, the most successful of these
hybrids have learned that encouraging legal creativity is the key
to encouraging a healthy and successful business. The struggles
companies like YouTube have faced to address both legitimate
and illegitimate claims by copyright owners have led others to
plan for these complexities in advance., for example, explic-
itly enables users to mark their creative work with the freedoms
they intend it to carry. Sony’s version of YouTube in Japan, eyeVio,
requires uploaders to verify the freedom to share the content they
intend to upload.

As this model becomes the norm, it will change the world
within which this remix creativity happens. The focus will shift
to the creativity alone; the conditions under which that creativity
happens—and the “piracy” of its making—will no longer be inter-
esting. The hybrid can pave a way toward legal remix creativity.
The incentive of the market can drive a market reform to make this
form of expression allowed.

I don’t think this market incentive alone will be enough. Pol-
icy changes will be necessary as well. But one great thing about
democracy in America is that when the market demonstrates the
wisdom of a certain freedom, politicians at least sometimes listen.
As the market of hybrids becomes even more significant, the free-
doms hybrids will depend upon will become more and more salient
to policy makers.

                        PART THREE
                        THE FUTURE

In the twentieth century, RO culture flourished. The twenty-first century
could make it better. An extraordinary range of diverse culture could be
accessible, cheaply, anytime and anywhere. Access could be the norm, not
a privilege.

Before the twentieth century, RW culture flourished. The twenty-
first century could make it better too. Digital technologies have democ-
ratized the ability to create and re-create the culture around us. Our kids
have just begun to show us how they create as they spread culture. We’ve
just begun to see how their understanding grows as the practice of remix
spreads, and especially as it becomes part of the hybrid.

Never before has the opportunity for the hybrid been as real. Never
has the chance for commercial entities supporting sharing economies, or
for sharing economies to exploit commercial opportunities, been as pow-
erful. The opportunity of a hybrid economy is the promise of extraordi-
nary value realized. How is not obvious. Certainly not automatically, or
easily. But technology has now given us the chance to tap human effort
for extraordinary good. Subtle and insightful entrepreneurs could trans-
form that opportunity into real wealth.

Thus the future we could have: a better RO culture, a more vibrant
RW culture, and a flourishing world of hybrids. They stand in stark con-
trast to the dark trade-offs the current war seems to present. They reject
the idea that enabling the freedom to create in the RW tradition means
giving up on any good from RO culture. They reject the notion that Inter-
net culture must oppose profit, or that profit must destroy Internet culture.
They are futures of optimism, and an optimism we should all embrace.

But optimism is not a promise. Or a plan. It is at most a reason to plan.
It is a motivation for real promises. And in the face of this promise, we
need a plan for making these futures real. Real change will be necessary
if this future is to come about— changes in law, and changes in us.

                   REFORMING LAW

Copyright law regulates culture in America. Copyright law must
be changed. Changed, not abolished. I reject the calls of many
(of my friends) to effectively end copyright. Neither RW nor RO
culture can truly flourish without copyright. But the form and
reach of copyright law today are radically out of date. It is time
Congress launched a serious investigation into how this massive,
and massively inefficient, system of regulation might be brought
into the twenty-first century.

Providing that comprehensive plan is not my purpose in
this book. Instead, in this chapter, I sketch five shifts in the law that
would radically improve its relation to RW creativity and, in turn,
significantly improve the market for hybrids. None of these changes
would threaten one dime of the existing market for creative work
so vigorously defended today by the content industry. Together,
they would go a long way toward making the system make more
sense of the creative potential of digital technologies.

            1. Deregulating Amateur Creativity

The first change is the most obvious: we need to restore a copy-
right law that leaves “amateur creativity” free from regulation. Or
put differently, we need to revive the kind of outrage that Sousa
felt at the very idea that the law would regulate the equivalent of
the “young people together singing the songs of the day or the old
songs.” This was our history. This history encouraged a wide range
of RW creativity. And even if the twentieth century lulled us into
a couch-potato stupor, there’s no justification for permitting that
stupor to sanction the radical change that the law, in the context
of digital technologies, has now effected—the regulation, again, of
amateur culture.

That regulation could be avoided most simply by exempting
“noncommercial” uses from the scope of the rights granted by copy-
right. No doubt that line is hard to draw. But the law has already
drawn it in many different copyright contexts. Eight sections of the
Copyright Act explicitly distinguish their applications based upon
the difference between commercial and noncommercial use.1 A
jurisprudence could develop to help guide the distinction here as well.

This exemption should at least be made for noncommercial, or
amateur, remix. Consider, for example, the following table:

                             “Copies”   Remix
             Professional    ©          ©/free
                Amateur      ©/free     free

The rows distinguish between professional creativity and amateur.

The YouTube video of Stephanie Lenz’s eighteen-month-old is ama-
teur creativity; DJ Danger Mouse’s remix of the Beatles’ White and
Jay-Z’s Black albums is professional creativity. The columns dis-
tinguish between remix and non-remix, or what I call “copies.”
“Remix” here means transformative work. “Copies” mean efforts not
to change the original work but simply to make it more accessible.

With this matrix then, we can now see at least one clear example
of where culture should be deregulated—amateur remix. There is
no good reason for copyright law to regulate this creativity. There
is plenty of reason—both costs and creative—for it to leave that bit
free. At a minimum, Congress should exempt this class of creative
work from the requirements of clearing rights to create.

By contrast, copies of professional work should continue to be
regulated in the traditional manner. The right to distribute these
could, in this model, remain within the exclusive control of the
copyright holder.

Professional remix, and amateur distribution, are more compli-
cated cases. There should be a broad swath of freedom for profes-
sionals to remix existing copyrighted work; there’s little reason to
worry much about amateur or noncommercial distribution of cre-
ative work—at least if the compensation plan described below is
adopted. These categories could thus also be deregulated partially.
But neither should be deregulated to the extent that amateur remix

What about “fair use”? By “deregulating,” I don’t mean the doc-
trine of fair use. I mean free use. Fair use is a critically important
safety valve within copyright law. But it remains, perhaps necessar-
ily, an extraordinarily complicated balancing act, and a totally inap-
propriate burden for most amateur creators. My recommendation
is that Congress exempt an area of creative work from the require-
ments of fair use or the restriction of copyright. It is not that courts
find ways to balance the system to free use. By contrast, fair use
would remain a critical part of any professional creativity.

But what happens when a commercial entity wants to use this
amateur creativity? What happens when YouTube begins to serve
it? Or NBC wants to broadcast it?

In these cases, the noncommercial line has been crossed, and the
artists plainly ought to be paid—at least where payment is feasible.
If a parent has remixed photos of his kid with a song by Gilberto
Gil (as I have, many times), then when YouTube makes the amateur
remix publicly available, some compensation to Gil is appropriate;
just as, for example, when a community playhouse lets neighbors put
on a performance consisting of a series of songs sung by neighbors,
the public performance of those songs triggers a copyright obliga-
tion (usually covered by a blanket license issued to the community
playhouse). There are plenty of models within copyright law for
assuring that payment. Collecting societies have long provided pri-
vate solutions to these complex rights problems. Compulsory licens-
ing regimes—where the law either specifies a price, or specifies a
process for determining a price that will govern a particular use of a
copyrighted work—have done the same.2 The aim in both cases is to
find a simple and cheap way to secure payment for commercial use.
The aim as well, I’ve argued, should be to avoid blocking noncom-
mercial use in the process of protecting commercial use.

This is not the balance the law currently strikes. Perversely,
the law today says the amateur’s work is illegal, but it grants You-
Tube an immunity for indirectly profiting from work an artist has
remixed. That is just backwards, and legal reform to reverse it is

Most of those who would resist this kind of proposal wouldn’t
resist it for the money. Hollywood doesn’t expect to get rich on
your kid’s remix. Nor does it have a business model for licensing
cheap reuse by cash-strapped kids. But it is worried about reputa-
tion. What if a clip gets misused? What if Nazis spin it on their
Web site? Won’t people wonder why Kate Winslet has endorsed
the NRA? (Don’t worry. She hasn’t.)

This problem comes not, paradoxically, from a lack of control. It
comes from too much control. Because the law allows the copyright
owner to veto use, the copyright owner must worry about misuse.
The solution to that worry is less power. If the owner can’t control
the use, then the misuse is not the owner’s responsibility.

Consider a parallel that makes the point more clearly. As every
American should know, for almost a century after the Civil War,
segregation continued to stain our ideal of equality. The Supreme
Court took an important step toward reversing that fact in 1954,
when it ruled state-sponsored segregation unconstitutional. But it
wasn’t until Congress began to enact meaningful civil rights legis-
lation in the 1960s that equality made any real progress at all.

The heart of that new legislation was the Civil Rights Act of
1964, which, among other things, forbade discrimination in public
accommodations, including restaurants, bars, and hotels. Among
the many witnesses called to the congressional hearings in support
of this federal regulation of “public” accommodations were owners
of restaurants and hotels in the South.3

This fact at first seems puzzling. Why would the target of an
extensive set of federal mandates be arguing in favor of those man-
dates? Ideology isn’t an explanation: these witnesses were not inte-
grationists for reasons of principle or justice. Instead, they wanted the
government to force them to do something for economic reasons.

As the witnesses explained, however, in principle, they wanted
to serve African Americans. Segregation artificially constrained
their market. But if they simply opened their doors voluntarily to
African Americans, whites would boycott the restaurants. Invit-
ing blacks in would be seen as pro-black. Pro-black in the South
was punished. But if the government removed any choice from the
restaurants, then opening their doors to African Americans would
be ambiguous. It might be because they were pro-black; it might
be because they were simply following the law. According to these
witnesses, that ambiguity would stanch any retaliation. Segregation
could be ended without them having to pay the price for ending it.

For reasons analogous to the civil rights debates, copyright law
gives copyright owners more power than they should want. Put dif-
ferently, like the Southern restaurant owners, they should want the
law to remove some of the rights that the law currently gives them.

Why? Well, think again about Warner and its relationship to
its fan culture. Warner has come to see what many now under-
stand: that the obsessive attention of fans makes their franchise
more valuable. The “piracy” that happens when a fan takes a clip
from a Harry Potter film to post on her Web site is productive. It
makes Harry Potter more valuable. Warner reaps the benefit of
that increased value.

But as Marc Brandon rightly observed, trademark law puts some
obligations on the trademark owner. Which means that technically,
Warner needs to worry about which content it authorizes and which
content it doesn’t. Some of those worries are for good purpose: sites
that commercialize Warner content cannibalize Warner’s profit.
But some of those worries are simply political, like content on a site
promoting sex education, or opposing abortion.

Warner must police such uses because not doing so might be
seen as an endorsement of the particular uses. The fact that it is
Warner’s right means that it is also Warner’s responsibility. Any
mother opposing a particular way that Warner’s material is used
would be right to say to Warner, “This is your fault because you’re
perfectly able to say “no” to this.”

Just as the Southern restaurant owner was free to say no to black
patrons. That freedom meant responsibility, even when the respon-
sibility had nothing to do with the ultimate purpose or profit of the

Were the law to curtail Warner’s rights by exempting from copy-
right regulation any noncommercial use of creative work, however,
then Warner would not be responsible. When a parent objected
to the use of Harry Potter on a site that also promoted Republi-
can/Democratic ideals, Warner’s perfectly fair response would be,
“There’s nothing we could do about that. We don’t have the right to
regulate noncommercial use. This site is plainly using the content
noncommercially.” Warner’s responsibility would thus end where
its rights ran out. Its obligation to keep its products pure would be
limited to those contexts in which commerce affected the use of its

That limit would not just remove Warner’s responsibility. It
would also increase Warner’s profits—at least for work that inspires
a fan community. For with the removal of a legal barrier to fan
action, more fans will participate in that fan action. And the more
who devote their efforts toward Warner creative products, the bet-
ter it is for Warner.

Less control here could mean more profit. Removing the right
to some of that control would thus be a first, and valuable, change
that Congress could make toward enabling the RW hybrids to

                        2. Clear Title

When Google announced its plans to digitize—or Google-ize—18
million books, the editors at the Wall Street Journal were outraged.
“There’s a happy-go-lucky vibe around Google,” the Journal wrote,
contributing to an “image” that lends a “spin of respectability and
beneficence to projects such as Google Print.” “But,” the Journal
warned, “the mere activity of digitizing and storing millions of
books . . . raises a serious legal question.” Google was ignoring these
questions, the Journal charged. “Intellectual property was impor-
tant enough to the Founding Fathers for them to mention it explic-
itly in the Constitution. We assume that when Google says ‘Don’t
Be Evil’ this includes ‘Thou Shall Not Steal.’ ”4 (Actually, the
Constitution doesn’t explicitly mention “intellectual property.” It
speaks of “exclusive rights” to “writings and discoveries”—aka,
monopolies. To say that means the framers endorsed IP is like
saying they endorsed “war” because the Constitution mentions
that as well.)

In this case, the editors missed a fundamental fact about the
“property right” that copyright is. Copyright is property. But as cur-
rently constituted it is the most inefficient property system known
to man. That inefficiency is the core justification behind Google’s
claim to be allowed to use this content freely. “Fair use,” in other
words, turns upon this “inefficiency.”

Consider a few statistics. Of the 18 million books that Google
intended to scan, 16 percent are in the public domain and 9 percent
are in print, and in copyright—meaning 75 percent are out of print
yet presumably within copyright.5

What does it mean to be out of print? The most important prac-
tical consequence is that it is virtually impossible to identify who
the owners of copyrights are for works that are out of print. Impos-
sible precisely because the government has so totally failed to keep
the property rights for these copyrights clear. There’s no registry
for identifying the owners of copyrighted works. Nor is there even
a list of which works are copyrighted. For anyone trying to make
culture accessible in exactly the way Google has, the existing system
makes it impossible—at least if permission is required for any par-
ticular use.

This problem is not limited to Google. Consider the University
of Houston’s Digital Storytelling project. As I described, the major-
ity of students at the University of Houston are not native English
speakers. Many are immigrants. Most were raised in homes where
English was not the mother tongue. This mix creates an impor-
tant language gap: some students speak English significantly better
than others, meaning any task exclusively in words is a task that
burdens some more than others.

To respond to this difference, Houston began a digital storytell-
ing project. Students were invited to develop short videos that told
a story about some period in American history. The stories were
to mix images and sounds from the period, in a way that brought
the history to life. But as these students discover recordings from
the Depression, or photographs of the Korean War, what are they
allowed to do with them? I’m not talking about Disney films, or the
collected works of America’s greatest jazz musicians. I’m talking
instead about obscure works whose owner could never be found.

The university’s lawyers had a simple answer: they weren’t
happy with this permissionless use, but they would ignore it so
long as the project didn’t let anyone see the work. These kids were
allowed to create. But what they created could be viewed by no one
except their teacher.

Here again, this makes no sense. No one loses because of these
kids’ use. The law should not inhibit it at all. Yet the uncertainty
that now dominates copyright law makes this, and a thousand
other projects, uncertain. For no good copyright-related reason.

Digital technologies make it feasible—for the first time in
history—to do what Jefferson dreamed of when he founded the
Library of Congress: “to sustain and preserve a universal collection
of knowledge and creativity for future generations.” The costs of
digitizing and making accessible every bit of our past are increas-
ingly trivial. At least, the technical costs are trivial. The legal
costs, on the other hand, are increasingly prohibitive. Uncertainty
destroys the potential of many of these projects. It reserves others
to those companies only that can afford to bear this extraordinary

This reality is ridiculous. The main function of copyright law is
to protect the commercial life of creativity. Though there are excep-
tions, in the vast majority of cases, that commercial life is over after
a very short time.6 There is no good copyright reason for the law
to interfere with archives or universities that seek to digitize and
make available our creative past. And yet the law does.

This problem could be fixed relatively easily by applying an
innovation as old as American copyright law.

For most of the history of copyright in America (186 out of
almost 220 years, to be precise), copyright was an opt-in system
of regulation. You got the benefit of copyright protection only
if you asked for it. If you didn’t ask in the appropriate way—if you
didn’t register your work, mark it with a copyright symbol, deposit
it with the Library of Congress, and renew the copyright after an
initial term—your work passed into the public domain. That fact
didn’t bother most who published creative work in America. For
much of that history, the majority of published work was never
copyrighted. The vast majority of work that was copyrighted didn’t
renew its copyright after an initial term.

This system was cumbersome, and expensive. Sometimes it
resulted in an unfair forfeiture of rights. But it had an important
benefit—both to other creators, and to the spread of creativity
generally. The system was automatically self-correcting. It auto-
matically narrowed its protection to works that—from the author’s
perspective—needed it. And it left the rest of the world of pub-
lished creativity free of copyright regulation.

This system of opt-in copyright was abolished beginning in 1976.
Motivated in part by the desire to conform to international conven-
tions, and in part by a desire simply to make the system simpler, Con-
gress inverted the old system. Copyright was now an opt-out system,
where the regulation of copyright was automatically extended to all
creative work upon its creation. No formal acts were required to get
the benefit of this protection. And the term was now the maximum
term, automatically. When Congress made this change, it probably
didn’t matter much. Nineteen seventy-six was the climax of the RO
culture. Those producing this culture benefited from this automatic
expression of the right for them to control.

In the RW era, however, this automatic and fundamentally
ambiguous system of property law unnecessarily burdens creativity.
And there are obvious, simple ways to change this system to remove
this burden. The least destructive change, in my view, would cre-
ate a maintenance obligation for copyright owners after an initial
term of automatic protection. Under one proposal, fourteen years
after a work was published, the copyright owner would have to reg-
ister the work. If she failed to do so, then others could use it either
freely or with a minimal royalty payment. The system would clar-
ify rights after fourteen years. The only work that would continue
to be fully protected would be work that the author took steps to

This change would thus clear the title to creative work, so the
market could regulate access to that work more efficiently. In this
sense, the proposal has parallels in every other body of property law.
Copyright law is unique in its failure to impose formalities on prop-
erty owners. In many areas, property law is unforgiving of those
who fail to shoulder their fair share of the burden in keeping the
system efficient. That principle should be returned to copyright. If
it’s not worth it for a copyright owner, after fourteen years, to take
some minimal step to register her works, then it shouldn’t be worth
it for the United States government to threaten criminal prosecu-
tion protecting the same property.

This change would make the copyright system more efficient.
Copyright gives copyright owners a property right—just as real
property law gives homeowners a property right to the land on
which their house is built. In theory, this is a good thing. By protect-
ing the resource with a property right, the law enables the resource
to move to its highest-valued user. The market thus complements
this property system by encourage trades to make sure the right is
held by the person or entity that values it most.

For that system to function, however, the rights have to be clear.
It must be possible to know who owns what. For that reason, for
example, owners of land must file a deed describing the metes and
bounds of their property. Or the owner of a car must file a registra-
tion. These systems are designed to make the market function effi-
ciently. By making claims on the ownership of property clear—or
put differently, by making title to property clear (“clear title”)—
the system assures that the property can be allocated in a way that
makes everyone better off. Technology offers an extraordinary
opportunity for making registration work efficiently. Already com-
panies such as YouTube are experimenting with technology that
can automatically identify video or music in the content that’s being
uploaded. We could easily imagine a system whereby, as these tech-
nologies develop, copyright holders would “register” their work not
in the old-fashioned way (by filing a form with the copyright office)
but by uploading the works so that servers could take a signature
of it, and then add that to the list of creative work monitored for
infringement. Works that were added into this kind of “registra-
tion system” would get the full protection of the law. Works that
were not would, after a period of time, rise into the public domain.

There’s lots to question about that theory. But for my purposes
here, I want to embrace it without qualification. Assuming one
believes the market perfects a well-functioning property system,
what has to be true about the property system? Or put differently,
assuming we want the market to work well, is the copyright system
designed to enable that?

As it is currently built, the answer is no. As currently consti-
tuted, copyright is an extraordinarily inefficient property system.
Even the Wall Street Journal should see that. Or actually, especially
the Wall Street Journal should see that. From its perspective, why
would it be surprising that a government-crafted system of monop-
oly would be inefficiently run?

                          3. Simplify

The third change follows directly from the second. Congress must
work to make the law simpler.

If copyright were a regulation limited to large film studios and
record companies, then its complexity and inefficiency would be
unfortunate but not terribly significant. So what if Fox has to hire
more lawyers to work through complex copyright licensing prob-
lems? (For those of us who make lawyers for a living [law profes-
sors], the need is positively a good thing!)

But when copyright law purports to regulate everyone with a
computer—from kids accessing the Internet to grandmothers who
allow their kids to access the Internet—then there is a special obliga-
tion to make sure this regulation is clear. And that obligation is even
stronger when, as here, the regulation is a regulation of speech.

Copyright law fails miserably to live up to this standard. Under
the current law, if a kid wants to legally make a video to post on You-
Tube, synchronizing music from his favorite bands with film clips
from his favorite movies, he has to clear rights. Even if the rights
holders were likely to clear those rights, it would be extremely dif-
ficult to track them down. And of course, considering the current
attitudes of the major rights holders, it is impossible to imagine that
they would even entertain the idea of authorizing this remix use.

We thus have a system of technology that invites our kids to be
creative. Yet a system of law prevents them from creating legally.
The regulation of this creativity thus fails every important standard
of efficiency and justice. And Congress should immediately address
how it could be changed to make it work better.

One particular area of the law’s failure is the doctrine called
“fair use.” Fair use is designed to limit the scope of copyright’s reg-
ulation. A use that would otherwise be within the monopoly right
of copyright is permitted by fair use, to advance some important
social end. So if my previous books are any indication, there will
be many who after reading this book will copy text from it in a
highly critical review. Such “copying” technically triggers the law
of copyright. But the doctrine of fair use would protect that copy-
ing, so long as the scope and purpose of the copying were within
the ordinary contours of criticism.

The problem with fair use is not its objective. The problem is
how it advances its objective. Once again, the doctrine was devel-
oped imagining it would be administered by lawyers. In a world
where copyright only (effectively) regulated Fox and Sony Records,
that might not be a terrible assumption. But again, when copyright
law is meant to regulate Sony and your fifteen-year-old, a system
that imagines that a gaggle of lawyers will review every use is crim-
inally inadequate. If the law is going to regulate your kid, it must
do so in a way your kid can understand.

Fair use could do its work better if Congress followed in part
the practice of European copyright systems. Specifically, Congress
could specify certain uses that were beyond the scope of copyright
law. Congress should not follow the Europeans completely, how-
ever. The flexibility of existing fair-use law does encourage devel-
opment of the law. It should remain so that those who can afford
the lawyers can push the law to develop in ways that make sense of
the law. But that system must be married to a clearer and simpler
system regulating everyone else.

Conservatives should not resist this point. As one of America’s
leading libertarian scholars has taught us, the question for regula-
tors is not what rule perfectly advances the policy objectives. The
question is whether the return from a complex rule advancing
some policy objective is worth the price.7 In theory, the fancy quali-
fications and limitations on copyright may well ideally balance
protection and incentives. The real question should be whether we
couldn’t get very close to that ideal balance with a much much sim-
pler (read: cheaper) system.

                     4. Decriminalizing the Copy

The fourth change is perhaps the most geeky but possibly, in the
end, the most important. Copyright law has got to give up its
obsession with “the copy.” The law should not regulate “copies” or
“modern reproductions” on their own. It should instead regulate
uses—like public distributions of copies of copyrighted work—
that connect directly to the economic incentive copyright law was
intended to foster.

To most people, the idea that copyright law should regulate
something other than copies seems absurd. How could you have a
“copyright” law if it didn’t regulate copies? But in fact, for most of
our history copyright law didn’t regulate copies. From 1790 until
1909, the law regulated different uses that directly linked, or were
likely to link, to the commercial exploitation of creative work. Thus,
it regulated “publishing” and “republishing” of books, as well as
“vending” of books—all activities likely to be commercial.8

In 1909, the law was changed to refer to “copies.”9 Yet, as I’ve
already described, even that change was not intended to widen the
real scope of the law. And in any case, as Lyman Ray Patterson has
argued, that change most likely was an error in drafting.10 None-
theless, after 1909, the law reached beyond the particular acts that
Congress regulated. The law would reach as far as the technology
for “copying” would reach.

The effect of this change in technology was to change radically
the scope of copyright law. In 1909, writes Jessica Litman,

    U.S. copyright law was technical, inconsistent, and difficult to
    understand, but it didn’t apply to very many people or very many
    things. If one were an author or publisher of books, maps, charts,
    paintings, sculpture, photographs or sheet music, a playwright
    or producer of plays, or a printer, the copyright law bore on one’s
    business. Booksellers, piano-roll and phonograph record publish-
    ers, motion picture producers, musicians, scholars, members of
    Congress, and ordinary consumers could go about their business
    without ever encountering a copyright problem.

    Ninety years later, the U.S. copyright law is even more techni-
    cal, inconsistent and difficult to understand; more importantly, it
    touches everyone and everything. In the intervening years, copy-
    right has reached out to embrace much of the paraphernalia of mod-
    ern society. . . . Technology, heedless of law, has developed modes
    that insert multiple acts of reproduction and transmission—
    potentially actionable events under the copyright statute—into
    commonplace daily transactions. Most of us can no longer spend
    even an hour without colliding with the copyright law.11

If copyright regulates copies, and copying is as common as breath-
ing, then a law that triggers federal regulation on copying is a law
that regulates too far.

Instead, Congress should adopt again its historical practice of
specifying precisely the kinds of uses of creative work that should
be regulated by copyright law.12 The law should be triggered by
uses that are presumptively, or likely to be, commercial uses in
competition with the copyright owner’s use. The law should leave
unregulated uses that have nothing to do with the kinds of uses the
copyright owner needs to control. Copying, in this world, would
not itself invoke federal regulation. Public performances, or public
distributions, or commercial distribution, would.

Why is this important? Under the current law, it is easy to get
thrown into the briar patch of copyright regulation, and very hard
to get out. As I’ve described, if every single use of culture in the
digital context produces a copy, then every single business that
purports to use culture in a digital context is potentially subject to
copyright’s regulation.

In some cases, that’s not a problem. It’s easy to identify whose
permission is required, easy to secure that permission from the
copyright owners. But in many other cases, the new or innovative
use challenges the copyright holder. The use might create competi-
tion, for example, that the copyright holder doesn’t want. And so
the threat of a copyright-infringement suit against the innovator is
an effective way to control that innovation. Once that initial copy is
made, the lawyers have to be called into the research lab. Complex
and uncertain doctrine is waved around the project. Magic phrases
are incanted, as if by witch doctors aiming to ward off inevitable

I know this process well. Though I’ve never consulted for
money in this context, I have been privy to many such conversations
among technologists and venture capitalists, trying to understand
whether their next great idea will end them up in financial jail
(i.e., litigation). I’ve watched as one side makes a pitch that seems to
everyone 100 percent convincing. And then the other side makes a
counterpitch that also seems 100 percent convincing. The net result
is always a gamble. And because copyright liability is so severe, it is
often a “bet-the-company” gamble.

This is an extraordinary waste of economic resources. A busi-
ness shouldn’t need a witch doctor to tell it whether its plan is
legal—especially a witch doctor who charges $400 to $800 an hour.
The law instead needs to be clearer. And the complication caused
by the law being triggered upon the mere creation of a copy is an
unnecessary tax on the creative process.

                 5. Decriminalizing File Sharing

My final change is the one I will describe the least because, again,
others have effectively mapped this change.13 But it is my view that
Congress needs to decriminalize file sharing, either by authorizing
at least noncommercial file sharing with taxes to cover a reason-
able royalty to the artists whose work is shared, or by authorizing a
simple blanket licensing procedure, whereby users could, for a low
fee, buy the right to freely file-share. The former solution has been
described in depth by Neil W. Netanel and William Fisher. The
latter is the proposal of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of
solutions, it is critical that Congress take steps to do one or the other.
The reason flows from a simple reality check: a decade of fighting
p2p file sharing has neither stopped illegal sharing nor found a way
to make sure artists are compensated for unauthorized sharing. In
short, the strategy of this decade has failed to advance the objectives
of copyright law—providing compensation to creators for their cre-
ative work.

No doubt there are still a thousand ideas about how we could
regulate the technology of the Internet to kill p2p file sharing. And
no doubt there are gaggles of lawyers who would love the easy work
of suing kids and their parents for illegal file sharing. But the ques-
tion Congress should ask is what strategy is most likely to assure
compensation to artists, and minimize the criminalization of our

Decriminalizing file sharing is that strategy. As the work of
Fisher demonstrates, there are plenty of ways that we might tag
and trace particular uses of copyrighted material. That provides
the baseline for compensating artists for the use of their creative
work. And while I don’t believe we need to embrace this system
permanently just now, I do believe a transition regulation, designed
to compensate and decriminalize, would significantly reduce the
collateral damage being caused by the current war.

All five of these changes would go a long way to relieving the copy-
right system of unnecessary pressure. They would go a very long
way to legalizing most of the uses of creative work on the Internet
today. And they would not limit in any way the profits of the indus-
tries that fight so hard to resist these uses. That’s the ultimate test
that copyright law should pose: would these uses actually do any
harm? The people I spoke with in preparing this book made that
point again and again. As Don Joyce explained:

    All lawsuits in this field are always couched in economic terms:
    “By ripping this off, by stealing this thing, you have threatened
    the economic viability of the original somehow.” They actually
    say that without any proof that that’s true at all. I have never seen
    anyone prove that in fact, that some work was diminished in its
    ability to make money by somebody’s sample. In my mind the
    work that’s reusing it is not in competition with the original. And
    you haven’t removed the original. It’s still there. It will always be
    there, as it is, as it was, as the original. And if you sample from it,
    you’ve made something else. You’ve probably put samples from ten
    other things into this thing, and that’s just one little element, and
    together the parts make up something that has very little bearing
    on that one thing you may have sampled from. I just don’t think
    there’s an argument there of what the harm is. If there’s no harm,
    and it’s a lot of fun, I say do it. No one’s ever shown me that the
    harm is real.

That much is perfectly true. Economists argue ferociously about
whether or to what extent p2p file sharing of complete digital cop-
ies of commercially available works might harm the copyright
owner. But no one would even speculate about the harm that comes
from remixing works, much of which is not even commercially

Of course, that’s not to say there’s no “harm” here at all. As
Johan Söderberg put it to me: “I don’t think I’m hurting anybody. I
mean, of course I am hurting [Bush and Blair]. It’s something that
is against George Bush and Tony Blair. So I’m hurting them.” But
is it copyright’s job to protect Blair and Bush from criticism? Is that
the reason the framers granted Congress the right to secure exclu-
sive rights? If you even hesitate to answer that question, then let me
suggest you know very little about the motives of our framers. Giv-
ing government the power to silence critics through licensing was
them at their worst (see, e.g., the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798).
It was not one of the ideals motivating the drafting of our founding

                        REFORMING US

The law is just one part of the problem. A bigger part is us. Our
norms and expectations around the control of culture have been
set by a century that was radically different from the century we’re
in. We need to reset these norms to this new century. We need to
develop a set of norms to guide us as we experience the RW culture
and build hybrid economies. We need to develop a set of judgments
about how to react appropriately to speech that we happen not to
like. We, as a society, need to develop and deploy these norms.

                     Chilling the Control Freaks

We know the norms this century needs. We can find them if we
think again about the freedoms in writing. We were all taught as
a kid how to write. We measure education by how well writing is
learned. As I’ve already noted, this is a profoundly democratic fea-
ture of our creative culture: we tell everyone they should learn how
to speak as well as how to listen.

That core experience brings with it certain expectations—not
just about what anyone is free to do, but also about the appropri-
ate response to what anyone writes. Put simply, that response is
essentially substantive and laissez-faire. When someone writes a
stupid opinion, the appropriate reply questions the opinion, not the
right of someone to write it. And while falsity could invite a legal
response (defamation), there is (in the American tradition at least) a
strong presumption against getting the government involved unless
absolutely necessary. The Constitution limits the power of a pub-
lic figure to sue for defamation. And someone who responds to an
error with a lawsuit rightly loses the sympathy of most of us. This
is the one place where President Andrew Jackson’s mother’s advice
remains strong: “Never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own,
nor sue anybody for slander, assault and battery. Always settle them
cases yourself.”1 At least with respect to the slander part, that’s got
to be right.

As I’ve already argued, these writing norms are different from
the norms that govern much of the arts. The willingness to invoke
the legal system to address misuse with films or music is astonish-
ing. As Academy Award–winning director Davis Guggenheim
told me eight years ago, it is also increasing.

     Ten years ago . . . if incidental artwork . . . was recognized by a com-
     mon person, then you would have to clear its copyright. Today,
     things are very different. Now if any piece of artwork is recogniz-
     able by anybody . . . then you have to clear the rights of that and
     pay to use the work. [A]lmost every piece of artwork, any piece of
     furniture, or sculpture, has to be cleared before you can use it.2

We need the norms governing text to govern culture generally.

This change must start with the companies that now have legal
control over so much of our culture. They must show leadership.
Henry Jenkins divides these companies into two sorts:

    [S]tarting with the legal battles over Napster, the media indus-
    tries have increasingly adopted a scorched-earth policy toward
    their consumers, seeking to regulate and criminalize many forms
    of fan participation that once fell below their radar. Let’s call
    them the prohibitionists. To date, the prohibitionist stance has
    been dominant within old media companies (film, television, the
    recording industry), though these groups are to varying degrees
    starting to reexamine some of these assumptions. . . . At the same
    time, on the fringes, new media companies . . . are experimenting
    with new approaches that see fans as important collaborators in
    the production of content and as grassroots intermediaries helping
    to promote the franchise. We will call them the collaborationists.3

These collaborationists are forcing “media companies to rethink
old assumptions about what it means to consume media.”4 As they
experiment more with freedom, they will encourage norms that
support that freedom as well.

                         Showing Sharing

As I’ve already described, copyright law is automatic. It reaches out
and controls what you create—whether you intend it or not, and
whether it benefits you or not. An academic publishing a paper
wants nothing more than people to copy and read her paper. But
the law says no copying without permission. A teacher with an
innovative lesson plan for teaching Civil War history would love
nothing more than for others to use his work. The law says others
can’t without clearing the rights up front. The essence of copyright
law is a simple default: No. For many creators, the essence of the
creativity is: Of course.

No one needs to question the motive or necessity of those who
insist that they must reserve all rights to themselves. Maybe they
do. Who am I to say different? But while conceding a necessity
sometimes, we should never concede that sometimes means always.
That Lucasfilm needs to control all its rights to profit from its
genius does not mean that a law professor writing an article about
bankruptcy needs the same protection. Or that NBC needs to con-
trol the commercial exploitation of ER does not mean NBC should
have the right to control the exploitation of the presidential debates.
The copyright model works well in some places. But some places
doesn’t mean everywhere.

Movements like the Creative Commons were born to help people
see the difference between somewhere and everywhere. Creative
Commons gives authors free tools—legal tools (copyright licenses)
and technical tools (metadata and simple marking technology)—to
mark their creativity with the freedoms they intend it to carry. So
if you’re a teacher, and you want people to share your work, CC
gives you a tool to signal this to others. Or if you’re a photogra-
pher and don’t mind if others collect your work, but don’t want
Time magazine to take your work without your permission, then
CC would give you a license to signal this. All the licenses express
the relevant freedoms in three separate layers: one, a “commons
deed” that expresses the freedoms associated with the content in a
human readable form; two, the “legal code,” that is the actual copy-
right licenses; and three, metadata surrounding the content that
expresses the freedoms contained within that copyright license in
terms computers can understand. These three layers work together
to make the freedoms associated with the creative work clear. Not
all freedoms, but some. Not “All Rights Reserved” but “Some
Rights Reserved.”

In the five years since this project launched, millions of digital
works have been marked to signal this freedom rather than con-
trol. Some have used them to help spread their work. Others have
used them simply to say, “This is the picture of creativity I believe
in.” And as the tools have been used, they have begun to define
an alternative, privately built copyright system: Almost two-thirds
of the licenses restrict commercial use but permit noncommer-
cial use. The vast majority permit free derivatives, though half of
those require that the derivatives be released freely as well. This is
a picture of a much more balanced regime, built by volunteers, one
license at a time. And it signals something to other artists as well.

This signal is very important, for it shows an alternative that
authors and artists have selected. But more need to show the very
same sign. Whole fields need to establish a different copyright
default. Not necessarily by legislative change. Or at least not yet.
But by the voluntary action of those who believe the default should
be different.

Indeed, if you look at the five changes I suggest copyright law
should make, four of those changes Creative Commons already
enables through the voluntary action of copyright owners.

First, every CC license authorizes at least noncommercial dis-
tribution. That goes a great distance in deregulating amateur

Second, CC licenses make it simple to identify who a copyright
owner is. More significantly, Creative Commons is now taking the
lead in building an international copyright registry. Both changes
help clear title to copyrighted works, and thus help a market in
copyright work better.

Third, CC licenses are designed to simplify as much as possible
the copyright system it builds upon. Think of the copyright system
as the command line interface for computers before Windows or
the Mac became common. Like Windows, or graphical user inter-
faces generally, CC tries to make it easier for the ordinary user to
use the copyright system. Not to do everything, but to do the sorts
of things ordinary people are likely to need done.

And finally, as every CC license at least authorizes noncommer-
cial copying, we have decriminalized the copy. The question is not
“Has a copy been made?” The question is “For what purpose has a
copy been made?” This goes a great distance in simplifying copy-
right in contexts of unexpected or unpredicted uses. That simplifi-
cation should be Congress’s objective as well.

Though I was one of those who helped start Creative Commons,
I’m the first to argue that CC is just a step to rational copyright
reform, not itself an ultimate solution. But its key advantage is that
it works with creators to build a better copyright system. Unlike
the standard debate, which sets users against creators, CC is reform
advanced by authors and artists themselves. We say what control
we need. And in that conversation, we get to debate just how much
control is healthy or necessary for a culture.

More creators need to take part in this conversation. More need
to ask those who don’t why they don’t. We all need to work for a
norm that doesn’t condemn copyright, but rather condemns sense-
lessly deployed copyright. You can be in favor of handguns and
oppose giving handguns to kids. Likewise here.

        Rediscovering the Limits of Regulation

The final change is perhaps the most important. It is certainly the
most general. We as a culture need to rediscover an idea that was
dominant when Sousa was first learning to conduct: We must rec-
ognize the limits in regulation.

We’ve just left a century in which governmental power across
the world was greater than at any time in human history. So too
were people’s expectations for government. At some point in the
course of the century, it became almost natural to imagine that
government could do anything. At some point, it seemed obvi-
ous that the only limit to governmental power was governmental

Many in the nineteenth century had a very different view about
government. Many believed that government could do little, or
maybe nothing, to change how people behaved. As the prominent
nineteenth-century legal theorist James C. Carter put it,

    [H]uman transactions, especially private transactions, can be gov-
    erned only by the principles of justice; . . . these have an absolute
    existence, and cannot be made by human enactment; . . . they are
    wrapped up with the transactions which they regulate, and are
    discovered by subjecting those transactions to examination. [T]he
    law is consequently a science depending upon the observation of
    facts and not a contrivance to be established by legislation, that
    being a method directly antagonistic to science.5

If society is to change or improve, Carter believed, it must do so
by improving the individual. Legislation cannot “originate” that
change, Carter believed, though “it may aid it.” “Men cannot be
made better,” Carter declared, “by a legal command.”6

In many ways, my own work could well be characterized as
an apology for regulation. My first book, Code and Other Laws of
Cyberspace, argued strongly that while I was as skeptical of our cur-
rent government as any, it was extraordinarily important that the
government help ensure that the values of cyberspace were our val-
ues. My argument was criticized by libertarians, who believed the
best role for government was no role at all. They argued that cyber-
space would be best off if government kept its hands off.

I still believe that there are important strategic ways in which
government can do good. But the last few years have convinced me
that we all must be less optimistic about the potential of govern-
ment to do good.

This (obvious) point first cracked into my head as I was read-
ing the accounts of America’s war in Iraq. Whole libraries have
been published about the failures in that war.7 In book after book,
even those sympathetic to the objectives of the war could barely
find anything good to say about how it was executed. But as I read
more and more of these books, I was struck most by a question that
seemed simply not to have been asked before that war was waged:
What reason was there to think that government power could suc-
ceed in occupying and remaking Iraqi society?

I’m not talking about the invasion: that’s easy enough. Invasions
are won with powerful tanks and well-placed bombs. I’m talk-
ing about everything that would obviously have to be done after
the invasion—from security, to electric power, to food supplies, to
education. It was as if those at the very top simply assumed that the
government could do all these things, without ever asking whether
that assumption made any sense.

What made this all the more weird was that the very people
who were operating upon this vision of regulatory omnipotence
were the same people who, in a million other contexts, would have
been most skeptical about the government’s ability to do anything.
We’re not talking about FDR here. Or even the socialist member
of the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders. We’re talking about
people who don’t believe the government can run a railroad. But if
a government can’t run a railroad, how is it to run a whole society?
What possible reason is there to think that we had anything like
the capacity necessary to do this?

For though many predicted resistance, the presumption behind
our government actions was that force could always quell resis-
tance. If the enemy fought back, we’d fight harder. And at some
point, we’d fight hard enough to overcome the enemy. All that was
needed was a strong will and good character.

There’s a deep fallacy in this way of thinking. In a democracy,
more power does not translate into more success. Instead, like a car
trying to free itself from a snowbank, in a democracy, more power
is often self-defeating. There is a limit to what a government can
do that can’t simply be overcome by adding power or resources to
the problem. At some point, adding more regulation decreases the
effective control over the target.

This is not a book about Iraq. But I suggest we can apply the
point about that war to the other wars we are waging. There are
many such wars that would benefit from such consideration. But
the one I want to return to is the war we are waging against our
kids because of the way they use digital technology.

Again, as I’ve described, when p2p file sharing took off, the
response of the government (and those who pushed the govern-
ment) was that this bad behavior should be regulated away. We
assumed that if the government put enough force behind it—
enough prosecutions, enough suspensions from universities—
eventually, the bad behavior would stop.

In fact, the evidence is to the contrary. The government has
passed law after law. It has threatened extraordinary punishments.
And private actors like the RIAA have delivered these punishments
in literally thousands of lawsuits—more than seventeen thousand
as of 2006. But so far, this effort has been a massive failure. Not
because it has failed to protect the profits of the record companies.
No doubt, it has done that to some degree. But the real failure of
this war is the effect that this massive regulation has had on the
basic integrity of our kids. Our kids are “pirates.” We tell them this.
They come to believe it. Like any human, they adjust the way they
think in response to this charge. They come to like life as a “pirate.”
That way of thinking then bleeds. Like the black marketeers in
Soviet Russia, our kids increasingly adjust their behavior to answer
a simple question: How can I escape the law?

This concern is not just speculation. There is important legal
and sociological evidence to support the concern that overcriminal-
ization in this one (and central) area of our kids’ lives could have
negative effects in other areas of their lives, and on attitudes toward
the law generally. To the extent that kids view the laws regulating
culture as senseless, or worse, corrupt, that makes them less likely
to obey those laws. To the extent that they see these senseless laws
as indicative of the legal system generally, they may be less likely to
obey those laws generally. Developing the habit of mind, especially
in youth, of avoiding laws because they are seen to be wrong, or
silly, or simply unjust, develops a practice of thinking that could
bleed beyond the original source. Of course, no one would claim
that laws against piracy increase the incidence of rape or murder.
But there is evidence that if the laws regulating culture are per-
ceived to be morally unjust, that erodes the conditions within a cul-
ture for supporting the law more generally.8

But I’m not driven to this concern because of compelling
T-statistics in a multiple regression. The source of my concern is
the literally hundreds of people under thirty who have spoken to
me passionately about this issue. Just as I was completing this man-
uscript, for example, one teenager sent me an essay he had writ-
ten about “piracy.” As his essay, titled “Who Passes Up the Free
Lunch,” explained:

    You can get any song you want, any type of music, from any era,
    and it’s all FREE! What could be better? All of music’s history is
    at your disposal for one low monthly price: $0! . . .

    I download songs all the time for these exact reasons. It’s
    quick, easy and best of all, free! The other side of it is the artists
    that lose the revenue that they would have got if all those people
    had bought the CD’s. Obviously not everyone would have bought
    the CD, but this creates a moral dilemma between supporting the
    artists and just taking the free lunch. The RIAA says this is ille-
    gal, the artists say it’s stealing their money, and most of educated
    society says it’s just plain wrong, but here’s the problem: I com-
    pletely agree with both sides.

    “Pirating” music, as the RIAA calls it, is something I do when-
    ever I want some new music. All I do is type in the name of the
    artist or song, and click download, and voila, it appears and starts
    playing. It’s so easy it’s like stealing candy from a baby. However,
    now I’m at a point where I kind of take it for granted, and I don’t
    even think about what I would do if one day it were suddenly not
    available. In a time when there are so many options to amass a
    music collection, I take the way that is most convenient for me and
    most damaging to the artists. Much has been said in the justice
    system, in the media and online about the legality of these peer to
    peer networks, but the reality is that millions of people do it and
    only a few are ever stopped. I shamefully admit that, despite my
    sympathy for the artists and others who lose money from the file-
    sharing, I consciously take part in it and I have no plans to stop in
    the near future.

    Some people can justify stealing music because they do not
    realize the consequences; that is not the case for me because I am
    fully aware of them. I live in New York City, a place with liberal
    political views and that has been the home to many famous musi-
    cians over the years. My school, Trinity, is a place full of people
    with enough money to buy their own CD’s, and there is also a
    club that is trying to encourage people to trade CD’s. However,
    despite many people’s support of the philosophy of this group, in
    this digital age, it is simply infinitely easier to share music online.
    I even have a guitar teacher who writes songs for a living, and
    who depends on the money that people steal when they download
    songs from the internet. I am even so self-consciously guilty about
    this that I hide the program on my computer so she can’t see it
    when she comes. I tell her that I get my songs from my friends
    because I know that even if she wouldn’t tell me directly, she
    would be very disappointed in me. Each of these three groups that
    I am a part of, New Yorkers, Trinitarians, and guitar players, has
    a moral opposition to “pirating” music, yet somehow, as a member
    of educated society, I am able to shun this opposition in favor of a
    “free lunch.”

    So why is it that I, as well as millions of other people, go
    on stealing music from artists every day? For some, it may be
    disrespect for copyright laws, or simply an issue of money that one
    uses to justify “pirating” music. Others may not know the conse-
    quences for the artists, or choose to disregard those consequences.
    However, there is still another, more hedonistic reason, which I
    too can identify with, why people still download music from the
    internet. In a way, it is a product of our take-what-you-can capital-
    istic society, but at the same time our justice system has said that
    it is illegal. . . .

    The singer “Weird Al” Yankovic also deals with the issue of
    morality in one of his songs, creatively titled, “Don’t Download
    This Song.” He uses his playful lyrics to convince people to buy
    CD’s, but at the same time, he doesn’t exactly side with the art-
    ists or the RIAA either. He talks about the “guilt” and “shame”
    that will stay with you after you download the music, but later he
    talks about the RIAA like it’s an evil empire prosecuting children
    and grandmas willy-nilly. Also, he mentions another part that has
    been at the back of my mind: Why do the artists need the money
    more than me because they’re already super-rich? His perspec-
    tive as an artist is very interesting, because one would think that
    he would only be supportive of artists and the RIAA. Instead, he
    refuses to redeem the morality of either side, only adding to the
    murkiness of this issue.

    Ok, so there you have it: while I have a moral opposition to
    “pirating” music, the proposition of free music makes this opposi-
    tion purely philosophical. All I have left to do is hope that “Weird
    Al” was wrong when in “Don’t Download This Song,” he calmly
    describes the only possible progression for a “music pirate”: “You’ll
    start out stealing songs, then you’re robbing liquor stores, and sell-
    ing crack, and running over school kids with your car.” Oh, and
    also that I never get good enough at guitar to have my music “sto-
    len” on LimeWire.9

I’ve never met the author of this essay. But I meet his kind all the
time. They are my students. They populate the Stanford campus.
And their attitude reveals a cost tied to the war we now wage.

No politician has explained how the benefits we seek in this war
against piracy could ever justify that cost. No politician supporting
this war has ever considered the alternatives to this war, and the
costs. We have a practiced blindness when it comes to waging “war.”
We don’t think about costs. We think instead about the morality of
our cause. But as history has taught us again and again, morality in
motive does not guarantee morality in result. Good intentions are
a first step. Responsibility requires considering, and reconsidering,
every step after that.

We as a people need to remember: government power is limited.
It is not limited because the government has limited funds. Or lim-
ited bullets. It is limited because it operates against a background
of basic morality. That morality insists upon proportionality. The
parent who beats his child with a two-by-four because the child
didn’t clean his room is not wrong to insist his child clean his room.
He is wrong because however right the motive, means are always
subject to measure. A parent, an army, a government: they all must
be certain that their devotion to truth does not blind them to the
consequences of their actions. There’s only so much a government
can do. Where we find that limit, we must then find other means to
the legitimate end.


The economic theory behind copyright justifies it as a tool to
deal with what economists call the “problem of positive exter-
nalities.”1 An “externality” is an effect that your behavior has on
someone else. If you play your music very loudly and wake your
neighbors, your music is producing an externality (noise). If you
renovate your house and add a line of beautiful oak trees, your
renovation produces an externality (beauty). Beauty is a positive
externality—people generally like to receive it. Noise is a negative
externality—people (especially at 3 a.m.) don’t like to receive it.

Copyright law deals with the positive externality produced by
the nature of creative work. Creative work is a “public good”—
meaning that (1) once it is shared, anyone can consume it without
reducing the amount anyone else has; and (2) it is hard to restrict
anyone from consuming it once it is available to all. If you paint a
beautiful mural on your garage door, my viewing it doesn’t reduce
your opportunity to view it. And without building a wall around
your garage (not a very practical design, for a garage at least), it’s
very hard to block who gets to see your mural.

Jefferson put the same idea more lyrically in a letter he wrote in 1813:

    If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of
    exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea,
    which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to
    himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession
    of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its pecu-
    liar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other
    possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives
    instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper
    at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely
    spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual
    instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have
    been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made
    them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density
    at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our
    physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.2

Jefferson was talking about ideas here. Copyright regulates ex-
pression. But his observations about the nature of ideas are increas-
ingly true of expression. If I post this book on the Internet, then your
taking a copy doesn’t remove my having a copy too (“no one pos-
sesses the less, because every other possess the whole”). And my
making a copy available for you to have makes it relatively difficult
to prevent others from having a copy as well (“like the air in which
we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confine-
ment or exclusive appropriation”). “Relatively difficult,” not impos-
sible: the whole history of Digital Rights Management technology
has been the aim to remake Jefferson’s nature—to make it so digital
objects are like physical objects (your taking one copy means one less
for me; your getting access means I don’t have access).3 But in the
state of Internet nature, Internet expression is like Jefferson’s ideas.

I said that economists justify copyright as a way to deal with the
“problem of positive externalities.” But why, you might rightly won-
der, are “positive externalities” a problem? Why isn’t it a positive good
that expression “should freely spread from one to another over the
globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improve-
ment of his condition”? Why isn’t it “peculiarly and benevolently”
the Internet’s “nature,” to be encouraged rather than restricted?

The answer, for the economist at least, is that while free is no
doubt good, if everything were free, there would be too little incen-
tive to produce. And if there’s not enough monetary incentive to
produce, the economist fears, then not enough stuff is produced.

In this book I’ve sketched a bunch of obvious replies to this fear:
there are tons of incentives beyond money. Look at the sharing econ-
omy. Look at 100 million blogs, only 13 percent of which run ads.4
Look at Wikipedia or Free Software. Look at academics or scien-
tists. We have plenty of examples of creative expression produced on
a model different from the one that Britney Spears employs.

But I’ve also made the other side to that argument clear: the
sharing economy notwithstanding, there’s lots that won’t be cre-
ated without an effective copyright regime too. I love terrible
Hollywood blockbusters. If anyone could copy in high quality a
Hollywood film the moment it was released, no one could afford
to make $100 million blockbusters. So give me this example at least.
And if there’s one example, then it’s plausible that there are more.
Movies. Maybe music. Maybe some kinds of books—dictionaries,
maybe novels by John Grisham. We should of course be skeptical
about how broadly this regulation needs to reach. (Supreme Court
justice Stephen Breyer got tenure at Harvard with a piece that
expressed deep skepticism about how broadly this claimed need
reaches.) 5 But I’m convinced that it reaches into some places at least.
For those cases, without solving the problem of positive externali-
ties, we wouldn’t have that kind of creative work.

So to get Hollywood films, some kinds of blockbuster movies,
maybe Justin Timberlake–like music, and maybe a few types of books,
we run a copyright system. That system is a form of regulation. Like
most regulation, after a while, it becomes big and expensive. Federal
courts and federal prosecutors spend a lot of money enforcing the law
copyright is. Companies invest millions in technologies for protecting
copyrighted material. Universities run sting operations on their own
students to punish or expel those who fail to follow copyright’s rule.
We build this massively complex system of federal regulation—a
regulation that purports to reach everyone who uses a computer—to
solve this “problem” of positive externalities.

Good for us. Our government is working hard to “solve” this
“problem.” But what about negative externalities? What does our
government do about those? Think, for example, about mercury
spewed as pollution in the exhaust from coal-fired power plants.
Or think about the carbon spewed from these coal-fired power
plants. These too are externalities. Millions are exposed to danger-
ous levels of mercury because of this pollution. The planet teeters on
a catastrophic climate tipping point because of this carbon. What-
ever harm there might be in not having yet another Star Trek, the
harms from these negative externalities are unquestionable and real.
They cause real deaths. They will cause extraordinary dislocation
and economic harm. So given its keen interest in regulating to pro-
tect against uncompensated positive externalities, what precisely has
our government done about undoubtedly harmful negative exter-
nalities? In the past ten years, in a time when Congress has passed
at least twenty-four copyright bills,6 and federal prosecutors and fed-
eral civil courts have been used to wage “war” on “piracy” so as to
solve the problem of positive externalities, what exactly has the gov-
ernment been doing about these negative externalities?

The answer is, not much. Though President Bush successfully
deflected Al Gore’s charge in 2000 that we faced a carbon crisis by
promising to tax carbon when elected, within two weeks of his swear-
ing in, he reversed himself, and indicated he didn’t think global warm-
ing was a problem.7 And though the Clean Air Act plainly regulates
pollutants like mercury in power plants, in 2003, the Bush adminis-
tration changed the regulations to “allow polluters to avoid actually
having to reduce mercury.”8 Thus, with these real and tangible harms
caused by negative externalities, the government has done worse than
nothing. At the same time, it has devoted precious resources to fight-
ing a problem that many don’t even believe is a problem at all.

So what gives?

It’s been a decade since I got myself into the fight against copy-
right extremism. Throughout this book, I have argued that this
decade’s work has convinced me that this war is causing great harm
to our society. Not only from losses in innovation. Not only from the
stifling of certain kinds of creativity. Not only because it unjustifi-
ably limits constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. But also, and most
important, because it is corrupting a whole generation of our kids.
We wage war against our children, and our children will become
the enemy. They will become the criminals we name them to be.
And because there is no good evidence to suggest that we will win
this war, that’s all the reason in the world to stop these hostilities—
especially when there are alternatives that advance the purported
governmental interest without rendering a generation criminal.

But there is insult to add to this injury. For the point is not just
that our government is waging a hopeless war. It is that our govern-
ment does little to fight real harm, while it wastes resources fight-
ing “problems” that are not even clear harms.

And why does it do this?

The lesson a decade’s work has taught me is that the reason has
nothing to do with stupidity. It has nothing to do with ignorance.
The simple reason we wage a hopeless war against our kids is that
they have less money to give to political campaigns than Holly-
wood does. The simple reason we do nothing while our kids are
poisoned with mercury, or the environment is sent over the falls
with carbon, is that our kids and our environment have less money
to give to campaigns than the utilities and oil companies do. Our
government is fundamentally irrational for a fundamentally ratio-
nal reason: policy follows not sense, but dollars.

Until that problem is solved, a whole host of problems will go
unsolved. Global warming, pollution, a skewed tax system, farm
subsidies: our government is irrational because it is, in an impor-
tant way, corrupt. And until that corruption is solved, we should
expect little good from this government.

This book is not about that corruption generally. All I have aimed
for here is to get you to take one small step. Whatever you think about
global warming, the environment, tax gifts to favored corporations,
subsidies that benefit only corporate farmers, at least think this: there
is no justification for the copyright war that we now wage against our
kids. Demand that the war stop now. And once it is over, let’s get on to
the hard problem of crafting a copyright system that nurtures the full
range of creativity and collaboration that the Internet enables: one that
builds upon the economic and creative opportunity of hybrids and
remix creativity; one that decriminalizes the offense of being a teen.


This book is the culmination of a long effort to make an obvious point
clear. Much of that effort came in the form of lectures I’ve given
about this subject since publishing Free Culture (2004). There have been
more than two hundred such lectures. Each time, the argument advanced
and changed, sometimes slightly, sometimes significantly. This book rep-
resents an end to that evolution, if only because I have shifted the focus of
my work elsewhere.

Throughout this period, I have felt as if I was mediating between two
powerful views— one expressed in the work of the late Lyman Ray Pat-
terson; the other, expressed in the passion of the late Jack Valenti.

Patterson was a law professor at the University of Georgia. He was
one of the first copyright scholars to look at the law of copyright and the
reality of modern society and conclude something was profoundly out
of order. Valenti was the president of the Motion Picture Association of
America. He too looked at the law of copyright and the reality of mod-
ern society, and concluded something was profoundly out of order. For
Patterson, the something out of order was the law. For Valenti, it was
the society— or at least the youth of our society. Both worked until their
dying days to correct the wrong that each had identified.

I met Patterson just once. I debated Jack Valenti publicly four times.
And though the views of these two men could not have been more differ-
ent, in the end I realized that the peculiar focus of this book, and of my
work these past four years, was largely due to the powerful influence of
both men. Were they still alive, I would have asked before I mixed them
together in a single dedication. But as each devoted much of his life to
teaching (even if in very different ways), I trust they both would have
allowed the lesson that this particular remix might teach.

I am grateful to the many whose ideas and arguments I’ve used in
this book and who have fundamentally shaped my thinking. I had a very
different conception of the story this book tells, for example, until Tim
O’Reilly shifted my view fundamentally. Likewise, though in differing
degrees, with the other interviewees who appear throughout the book:
Brian Behlendorf, Marc Brandon, Candice Breitz, Stewart Butterfield,
Steve Chen, Gregg Gillis, Mark Hosier, Joi Ito, Mimi Ito, Don Joyce, Brew-
ster Kahle, Heather Lawver, Declan McCullagh, Dave Marglin, Craig
Newmark, Silvia Ochoa, Tim O’Reilly, Philip Rosedale, Mark Shuttle-
worth, Johan Söderberg, Victor Stone, Jimmy Wales, Jerry Yang, and
Robert Young. I have learned a great deal from all of them, and I hope I
have fairly evinced some of that understanding here.

Three other interviewees spent a great deal of time teaching me
material I didn’t get to use here. Dana Boyd generously shared her rich
and extraordinarily interesting learning about youth and creativity. In
the end, I came to believe that that research should first be presented by
her. Count me among those to acknowledge it as profoundly important
to an understanding of this next generation. Benjamin Mako Hill and
Erik Möller spent a great deal of time outlining a rich and sophisticated
understanding of “free culture.” But that work complemented and cor-
rected much of what I said in Free Culture, and it would have diverted the
story too much here. Suffice it to say there is much more to be said, and I
am hopeful I get a chance to say some of it.

I am also extraordinarily grateful to an amazing group of students
who helped correct my errors and show me parts in the argument that
I had missed or needed to read. They include Shireen Barday, Kevin
Donovan, Paul Gowder, Jonathan Lubin, Erika Myers, and Michael
Weinberg. Much of the work of coordinating these students was done by
another insanely efficient and insightful “chief” research assistant, Tracy
Rubin. And Christina Gagnier did a superhuman job in not only provid-
ing essential research, but pulling together that material to check every-
thing I’ve said in this book. This is the second book that Christina helped
make possible, and I am very thankful to her for that.

In addition to the three interviews that don’t appear here, there is a
massive empirical project that didn’t teach enough to include. The search
company Alexa contributed generously to that project by providing a list-
ing of the top one hundred thousand sites on the Web. A massive team
of volunteers from the Creative Commons community helped interpret
the substance of those sites to determine the kind of interaction each
encouraged. In the end, however, the results were too ambiguous to be
meaningful for this book. I hope to complete the work for an essay I will
publish later. But I am especially grateful to the many who helped coor-
dinate this massive interpretive project, including Dr. Emre  Bayamlioğlu,
Bodó Balázs, Lu Fang, Lital Leichtag, J. C. De Martin, Dragoslava
Pefeva, Jon Phillips, Song Shi, Anas Tawileh, Hung V. Tran, John Hen-
drik Weitzmann, and Fumi Yamazaki.

There is also a long list of friends and Internet friends who provided
advice and essential information. They include Pablo Francisco Arrieta,
Sean Ferry, Andy Moravcsik, and Cory Ondrejka. Dan Kahan helped me
think through the effects of bad law on norms. BigChampagne (www. provided comprehensive data about peer-to-peer
file-sharing practices. I am grateful they did so in the spirit of the “shar-
ing economy,” as the budget for a book like this could not have afforded
much more.

I started writing this book at The American Academy in Berlin. I
am very thankful to that bit of paradise on earth, and for its executive
director, Gary Smith, who convinced me to pursue it. I am also grateful
to Stanford Law School, and Dean Larry Kramer, for endless support to
help me finish it.

And, as anyone who has worked with me these past few years knows,
I couldn’t have begun to do this and many other things without the
extraordinary gift of an absolutely perfect assistant. Elaine Adolfo is not
only wildly more efficient than anyone in the world; she also practices a
decency and patience that is practically unknown to this world. There’s
no way I could thank her adequately for her help.

Finally, to my family: Free Culture was published just as our first child
was born. I began this book just after our second was born. As anyone
who has had this particular blessing knows, nothing could compare to
that joy, even if too much competes with it. Endless thanks and forever
love to Bettina, who has built that particular joy with me, despite the bur-
dens this work placed right in the middle.


Throughout this text there are references to links on the World Wide Web. As anyone
who has tried to use the Web knows, these links can be highly unstable. I have tried to
remedy this instability by redirecting readers to the original source through the Web site
associated with this book. For each link below, you can go to and locate
the original source. If the original link remains alive, you will be redirected to that link. If
the original link has disappeared, you will be redirected to an appropriate reference for the


 1. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chi-
    cago Press, 1980), 156–57.
 2. Ronald Allen Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991).
 3. Amy Harmon, “Black Hawk Download: Moving Beyond Music, Pirates Use New Tools
    to Turn the Net into an Illicit Video Club,” New York Times, January 17, 2002.
 4. Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster Ltd., 545 U.S. 913 (2005).


 1. All quotes from Candice Breitz taken from an in-person interview conducted August 6,
 2. E-mail to Candice Breitz, May 31, 2006.
 3. All quotes from Gregg Gillis taken from an interview conducted June 21, 2007, by
 4. All quotes from SilviaO taken from an interview conducted February 8, 2007, by

                          Chapter 1. Cultures of Our Past

1. “They Ask Protection,” Washington Post, June 6, 1906, 4.
2. E. Fulton Brylawski and Abe Goldman, Legislative History of the 1909 Copyright Act
   (South Hackensack, N. J.: Fred B. Rothman, 1976), 24.
3. Eric von Hippel, Democratizing Innovation (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005).
4. Brylawski and Goldman, Legislative History, 24.
5. Sousa, “The Menace of Mechanical Music,” 280.
6. Ibid., 280–81 (emphasis added).
7. See Tarla Rai Peterson, “Jefferson’s Yeoman Farmer as Frontier Hero: A Self Defeating
   Mythic Structure,” Agriculture and Human Values 7 (1990): 9–19; Jefferson to James Mad-
   ison, October 28, 1785, Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: Writings (New York:
   Library of America, 1984), 842; Willard Sterne Randall, Thomas Jefferson: A Life (New
   York: HarperCollins, 1994), 432; Lawrence S. Kaplan, Thomas Jefferson: Westward the
   Course of Empire (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1999), 27.
8. As Harvard professor Yochai Benkler describes it:

     Music in the nineteenth century was largely a relational good. It was something people
     did in the physical presence of each other: in the folk way through hearing, repeating,
     and improvising; in the middle-class way of buying sheet music and playing for guests
     or attending public performances; or in the upper-class way of hiring musicians. Capital
     was widely distributed among musicians in the form of instruments, or geographically
     dispersed in the hands of performance hall (and drawing room) owners. Market-based
     production depended on performance through presence. It provided opportunities for
     artists to live and perform locally, or to reach stardom in cultural centers, but without
     displacing the local performers.

    Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press,
    2006), 50–51.
9. Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York: New
   York University Press, 2006).

     Cultural production occurred mostly on the grassroots level; creative skills and artis-
     tic traditions were passed down mother to daughter, father to son. Stories and songs
     circulated broadly, well beyond their points of origin, with little or no expectation
     of economic compensation; many of the best ballads or folktales come to us today
     with no clear marks of individual authorship. While new commercialized forms of
     entertainment—the minstrel shows, the circuses, the showboats— emerged in the mid-
     to-late nineteenth century, these professional entertainments competed with thriving
     local traditions of barn dances, church sings, quilting bees, and campfire stories. There
     was no pure boundary between the emergent commercial culture and the residual folk
     culture: the commercial culture raided folk culture and folk culture raided commercial
     culture. (Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 135.)

     But the twentieth century, Jenkins argues, changed this:

     The story of American arts in the twentieth century might be told in terms of the
     displacement of folk culture by mass media. Initially, the emerging entertainment
     industry made its peace with folk practices, seeing the availability of grassroots sing-
     ers and musicians as a potential talent pool, incorporating community sing-a-longs
     into film exhibition practices, and broadcasting amateur-hour talent competitions.
     The new industrialized arts required huge investments and thus demanded a mass
     audience. The commercial entertainment industry set standards of technical perfec-
     tion and professional accomplishment few grassroots performers could match. The
     commercial industries developed powerful infrastructures that ensured that their mes-
     sages reached everyone in America who wasn’t living under a rock. Increasingly, the
     commercial culture generated the stories, images, and sounds that mattered most to the
     public. (Ibid.)

10. Wikipedia contributors, “Player Piano,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at
    link #1 (last visited July 30, 2007).
11. Ibid., available at link #2 (last visited July 30, 2007).
12. Pekka Gronow, “The Record Industry: The Growth of a Mass Medium,” Popular Music
    3 (1983): 54–55, available at link #3.
13. Leonard DeGraff, “Confronting the Mass Market: Thomas Edison and the Entertain-
    ment Phonograph,” Business and Economic History 24 (1995): 88, available at link #4.
14. Gronow, “The Record Industry,” 62, available at link #5.
15. Ibid., 62, available at link #6.
16. Ibid., 63, available at link #7.
17. Philip E. Meza, Coming Attractions? Hollywood, High Tech, and the Future of Entertain-
    ment (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2007), 51.
18. Ibid., 50–51.
19. Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), 3–7.
20. U.S. Census Bureau, “NAICS 5111—Newspaper, Periodical, Book and Directory Pub-
    lishers,” Industry Statistics Sampler, available at link #8 (last visited August 20, 2007).
21. U.S. Census Bureau, “NAICS 515120—Television Broadcasting,” Industry Statistics
    Sampler, available at link #9 (last visited August 20, 2007).
22. U.S. Census Bureau, “NAICS 512—Motion Picture and Sound Recording Industries,”
    Industry Statistics Sampler, available at link #10 (last visited August 20, 2007).
23. “Economies,” Motion Picture Association of America, available at link #11 (last visited
    January 24, 2008).
24. Brylawski and Goldman, Legislative History, 25.
25. Currier was skeptical of unlimited patent rights. See Zoltek Corp. v. United States, 464
    F.3d 1335, 1337 (2006) (Newman, J., dissenting), available at link #12 (last visited July 30,
    2007). He was reluctant to expand copyrights.

                               Chapter 3. RO, Extended

 1. Until 1972, federal law didn’t regulate the copying of recordings. See Capitol Records Inc.
    v. Naxos of America, 4 N.Y.3d 540, 544 (2005).
 2. See Lawrence Lessig, Code 2.0 (New York: Basic Books, 2006), 5–6.
 3. Bruce Lehman, Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure: The
    Report of the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights (Darby: Diane Publishing,
4. See Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Pub. L. No. 105-298, 112 Stat. 2827
   (1998) (extending the term of existing copyrights).
5. See, e.g., No Electronic Theft Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-147, 111 Stat. 2678 (“NET
   Act”), amending 17 U.S.C. §506(a).
6. See Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pub. L. No. 10-5-304, 112 Stat. 2860 (1998).
7. See UMG Recordings Inc. v. Inc., 92 F. Supp. 2d 349 (S.D.N.Y. 2000); A&M
   Records Inc. v. Napster Inc., 239 F.3d 1004 (9th Cir. 2001).
8. See, for example, Lessig, Free Culture, chap. 3.
9. RIAA Watcher, “RIAA Watch,” RIAA Watch, available at link #13; Nate Mook, “RIAA
   Sues 261, Including 12-Year-Old Girl,” BetaNews, September 9, 2003, available at link
   #14; Nate Mook, “RIAA Sues Deceased Grandmother,” BetaNews, February 4, 2005,
   available at link #15.
10. See Susan Butler, “Sixth Wave of RIAA Pre-Litigation Letters Sent to Colleges,” Hol-
   lywood Reporter, July 19, 2007, available at link #16.
11. Number of Lawsuits in the United States Courts Concerning Copyright, 2000–2006.

                     Year         Court of Appeals        District Courts
                     2006               415                    5,488
                     2005               453                    4,595
                     2004               475                    2,653
                     2003               453                    2,111
                     2002               517                    2,439
                     2001               486                    2,049
                     2000          Not Available               2,056

                     The Federal Judiciary, “Federal Judicial Caseload
                     Statistics,” U.S. Courts, available at link #17 (last
                     visited July 30, 2007). Table C-2. “U.S. District
                     Courts— Civil Cases Commenced, by Basis of Juris-
                     diction and Nature of Suit,” 2000–2006. Table B-7.
                     “U.S. Courts of Appeals—Nature of Suit or Offense
                     in Cases Arising from the U.S. District Courts, by
                     Circuit,” 2000–2006.

12. International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, IFPI:07 Digital Music Report
   (London: IFPI, 2007), 18.
13. The last great panic surrounded the emergence of cassette-tape technology. See the dis-
   cussion in Office of Technology Assessment, Copyright and Home Copying: Technology
   Challenges the Law (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989), 145–47,
   available at link #18.
14. Meza, Coming Attractions?, 87–88.
15. Ibid. But obviously the claims are contested. See Martin Peitz and Patrick Waelbroeck,
   “The Effect of Internet Piracy on CD Sales: Cross-Section Evidence,” CESifo Working
   Paper Series 1122 (January 2004), concluding that Internet piracy accounts for just 22.5
   percent of the drop in CD sales. See also Felix Oberholzer and Koleman Strumpf, “The
   Effect of File-Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis,” University of North
   Carolina (2004) (no statistically significant connection between downloading and drop
    in sales). Compare Stan J. Liebowitz, “Economists’ Topsy-Turvy View of Piracy,” Review
    of Economic Research on Copyright Issues 2 (2005): 5–17; Stan J. Liebowitz, “Economists
    Examine File-Sharing and Music Sales,” Industrial Organization and the Digital Economy
    (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005); Stan J. Liebowitz, “Testing File-Sharing’s Impact
    on Music Album Sales in Cities,” Management Science, forthcoming.
16. “The Recording Industry 2006 Piracy Report: Protecting Creativity in Music,” Interna-
    tional Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), available at link #19 (last visited
    January 18, 2008). For a fantastic study of the relationship between artists’ income and
    digital technologies see Martin Kretschmer, “Artists’ Earning and Copyright: A Review
    of British and German Music Industry Data in the Context of Digital Technologies,”
    First Monday 10 (2005), available at link #20.
17. Amy Matthew, “The Creative Revolution: Consumers, Artists Lead the Way into New
    Entertainment World,” Pueblo Chieftain, April 29, 2007; “Apple to Give iTunes Users
    Credit for Full Albums,” InvesTrend, March 29, 2007.
18. Less elegant was the idea of a coin box in the home. I remember as a kid staying in a
    boarding house in England in the 1970s that had a coin box to operate hot water. A hot
    bath is one thing, but television is a necessity. The inconvenience of this system must have
    been staggering. Still, the idea was tested in Palm Springs, California, in the early 1950s,
    again by Paramount. This system, called telemeter, used scrambled television signals sent
    over telephone lines. When customers deposited the correct amount of change in the coin
    box, the telemeter descrambled the signal. The system debuted in 1953, showing a USC–
    Notre Dame football game (presaging the popular college sports packages now available
    on satellite TV services) for $1.00 and a first-run Paramount movie, Forever Female, for
    an additional $1.35. (Meza, Coming Attractions?, 83.)
19. In Napster Inc. Copyright Litigation, 191 F. Supp. 2d 1087 (N.D. Cal. 2002).
20. In January 2008 the last of the major labels, Sony BMG, dropped the requirement that its
    music be sold with DRM. Peter Sayer, “Sony BMG to Sell DRM-Free Music Downloads
    Through Stores,” InfoWorld, January 7, 2008, available at link #21.
21. Lessig, Code 2.0.

                                Chapter 4. RW, Revived

 1. Grand Upright Music Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc., 780 F. Supp. 182 (S.D.N.Y. 1991).
 2. All quotes from Don Joyce taken from an interview conducted March 20, 2007, by
 3. David Bollier, Brand Name Bullies (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2005), 69.
 4. J. D. Lasica, Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation (Hoboken, N.J.:
    Wiley, 2005), 72–73.
 5. Heidi Anderson, “Plugged In,” Smart Computing (November 2000): 90–92.
 6. Benkler, Wealth of Networks, 217.
 7. Mark Lawson, “Berners-Lee on the Read/Write Web,” BBC News, August 9, 2005, avail-
    able at link #22 (last visited July 31, 2007).
 8. Niall Kennedy, “Technorati Two Years Later,” Niall Kennedy’s Weblog, November
    26, 2004, available at link #23; David Sifry, “Technorati,” Sifry’s Alerts, November 27,
    2002, available at link #24; David Sifry, “Over 100,000 Blogs Served,” Sifry’s Alerts,
    March 5, 2003, available at link #25; David Sifry, “One Million Weblogs Tracked,” Sifry’s
   Alerts, September 27, 2003, available at link #26; David Sifry, “State of the Blogosphere,”
   Sifry’s Alerts, October 10, 2004, available at link #27; “About Us,” Technorati, available at
   link #28 (last visited July 30, 2007).
9. David Sifry, “The State of the Live Web,” Sifry’s Alerts, April 5, 2007, available at link
   #29 (last visited July 23, 2007); David Sifry, “State of the Blogosphere, October 2006,”
   Technorati, available at link #30 (last visited July 23, 2007).
10. Benkler, Wealth of Networks, 217.
11. Thomas Vander Wal, “Off the Top: Folksonomy Entries,”, October 3,
   2004, available at link #31.
12. Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes
   Everything (New York: Portfolio, 2006), 41.
13. Ibid., 52.
14. Ibid., 144–45.
15. Ibid., 42.
16. “Blogging Basics,” Technorati, available at link #32 (last visited July 23, 2007).
17. David Sifry, “The State of the Live Web, April 2007,” Sifry’s Alerts, available at link #33
   (last visited August 16, 2007).
18. Charlene Li, Social Technographics (Cambridge, Mass.: Forrester, 2007), 2.
19. Benkler, Wealth of Networks, 225–33.
20. The blog Corporate Influence in the Media tries to document examples of advertisers
   pressuring publishers and broadcasters. See Anup Shah, Corporate Influence in the
   Media, available at link #34 (last visited August 16, 2007). In 2006 the Center for Media
   and Democracy released a report detailing a large number of instances in which news
   organizations broadcast “video news releases” as news without revealing to their audi-
   ences that the video was provided by a public relations firm. See Diane Farsetta and
   Daniel Price, “Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed,” Center for Media and
   Democracy, April 6, 2006, available at link #35.
21. Lawrence Lessig, “The People Own Ideas,” Technology Review (June 2005): 46–48.
22. “To the Point; Trends & Innovations,” Investor’s Business Daily, September 26, 2006.
23. Ibid.
24. Gail Koch, “ ‘800-Pound Gorilla’ Still Rules for Most,” Star Press (Muncie, Ind.), Septem-
   ber 28, 2005.
25. Xinhua News Agency, “Census Bureau: Americans to Spend More Time on Media Next
   Year,” December 15, 2006.
26. U.S. Fed News, “American Time Use Survey—2006 Results,” U.S. Fed News, June 28,
27. This is not to say that before the Internet, there was nothing like this RW-media culture.
   Indeed, for almost a half century, beginning with the Star Trek series, there has been
   a rich “fan fiction” culture, in which fans take popular culture and remix it. Rebecca
   Tushnet, “Legal Fictions: Copyright, Fan Fiction, and a New Common Law,” Loyola
   of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Journal 17 (1997): 655, citing Henry Jenkins and John
   Tulloch, eds., ‘At Other Times, Like Females’: Gender and Star Trek Fan Fiction, in Sci-
   ence Fiction Audiences: Watching Dr. Who and Star Trek (London: Routledge, 1995), 196.
   Some trace the history of fan fiction back even earlier, to “metanovels” written in response
   to classic works of fiction such as Pride and Prejudice (Sharon Cumberland, “Private Uses
   of Cyberspace: Women, Desire and Fan Culture,” in Rethinking Media Change: The Aes-
   thetics of Transition, ed. David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT
    Press, 2003), 261. An Internet commentator known as Super Cat argues that the first fan
    fiction was John Lydgate’s The Siege of Thebes, a continuation of The Canterbury Tales
    circa 1421: Super Cat, “A (Very) Brief History of Fanfic,” Fanfic Symposium, available
    at link #36 (last visited August 11, 2007). Many believe that the contemporary online fan
    fiction community is predominantly composed of women, and the genre addresses topics
    traditionally marginalized in the commercial media, including “the status of women in
    society, women’s ability to express desire, [and] the blurring of stereotyped gender lines”
    (Cumberland, “Private Uses,” 265). In addition to traditional textual fan fiction, cyber-
    space has spawned an active culture of fan filmmaking. See Henry Jenkins, “Quentin
    Tarantino’s Star Wars? Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture,”
    in Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition, ed. David Thorburn and Henry
    Jenkins (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003), 281–84 (offering a case study of Star Wars
    fan fiction, which began in textual form with the first official film, and developed into
    digital film distributed on independent creators’ Web sites). There is a comprehensive
    study of fan fiction in chapters 5–8 of Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers: Television Fans
    and Participatory Culture (New York: Routledge, 1992).
28. All quotes from Mark Hosler taken from an interview conducted May 1, 2007, by
29. All quotes from Johan Söderberg taken from an interview conducted February 15, 2007,
    by telephone.
30. Telephone interview with Don Joyce, March 20, 2007.
31. “Misperceptions, the Media, and the Iraq War,” Program on International Policy Atti-
    tudes and Knowledge Networks, available at link #37 (last visited January 18, 2008).
32. Charles Krauthammer, “A Vacation Bush Deserves,” Washington Post, August 10, 2001.
33. All quotes from Victor Stone taken from an interview conducted February 15, 2007, by
34. All quotes from Mimi Ito taken from an interview conducted January 24, 2007, by tele-
    phone. For more, see Mimi Ito, “Japanese Media Mixes and Amateur Cultural Exchange,”
    in Digital Generations, ed. David Buckingham and Rebekah Willett (Mahwah, N.J.:
    Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006), 49–66.
35. Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 128.
36. Ibid., 182.
37. Ibid., 177.
38. Ibid., 182.

                           Chapter 5. Cultures Compared

 1. An argument “in favor” is certainly not an argument anyone should consider conclusive.
    Free speech values should still weigh in the balance, driving regulation away from restric-
    tive measures when alternative, nonrestrictive alternatives exist.
 2. Andrew Odlyzko, “Content Is Not King,” First Monday 6 (2001), available at link #38.
 3. Stewart Baker, “Exclusionary Rules,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2004.
 4. Andrew Keen, The Cult of the Amateur (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 64.
 5. Ibid., 27.
 6. Ibid., 131.
 7. Ibid., 15.
8. I’ve enumerated some errors on my blog. See Lawrence Lessig, “Keen’s ‘The Cult of the
   Amateur’: BRILLIANT!” Lessig Blog, available at link #39.
9. Keen, The Cult of the Amateur, 27.
10. New York Institute for the Humanities and NYU Humanities Council, “The Comedies
   of Fair U$e,” Internet Archive, available at link #40 (last visited July 30, 2007); Joy Gar-
   nett, “Full Program Audio on,” Comedies of Fair U$e, available at link #41
   (last visited July 30, 2007).
11. Steven Johnson, Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually
   Making Us Smarter (New York: Riverhead, 2005).
12. Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 103–4.
13. A real problem for readers of his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). Dick-
   ens died before he completed the story, even though serial chapters were already being
   printed. Joel J. Brattin, “Dickens and Serial Publication,” PBS, available at link #42 (last
   visited August 16, 2007).
14. Christopher Lydon, “Ecstasy of Influence—Interview with Jonathan Lethem, Siva Vaid-
   hyanathan, Mark Hosler, and Mike Doughty,” Open Source with Christopher Lydon,
   February 2, 2007, available at link # 43.
15. Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies Without Boundaries: On Telecommunications in a Global
   Age (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990), 121.
16. The standard of intermediate First Amendment review permits speech regulation only
   “[1] if it advances important governmental interests unrelated to the suppression of free
   speech and [2] does not burden substantially more speech than necessary to further those
   interests.” Turner Broad. Sys. v. FCC, 520 U.S. 180, 189 (1997); see also United States v.
   O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 377 (1968); Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 791 (1989)
   (applying intermediate scrutiny to time, place, and manner regulation of speech in the
   public forum); San Francisco Arts & Athletics Inc. v. U.S. Olympic Comm., 483 U.S. 522,
   537 (1987) (applying O’Brien review to a law protecting the word “Olympic” under trade-
   mark law).
17. Work from 1923 on is potentially subject to copyright. Whether in fact a particular work
   is copyrighted depends upon whether the work satisfied certain formalities.
18. Jessica Litman, “The Exclusive Right to Read,” Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law
   Journal 13 (1994): 29, 34–35.
19. R. Anthony Reese, “Innocent Infringement in U.S. Copyright Law: A History,” Colum-
   bia Journal of Law & the Arts 30 (2007): 133, 136.
20. V. Clapp, Copyright—A Librarian’s View, Prepared for the National Advisory Commission
   on Libraries (Washington D.C.: Copyright Committee, Association of Research Librar-
   ies, 1968).
21. This important though obscure story about the unintended expansion of the scope of
   copyright is told best by L. Ray Patterson, “Free Speech, Copyright, and Fair Use,” Van-
   derbilt Law Review 40 (1987): 40–43.
22. Paul Goldstein, Copyright’s Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox (Stanford,
   Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2003).
23. Office of Technology Assessment, Copyright and Home Copying: Technology Challenges
   the Law (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1989), 145–47, available at
   link #44.
24. Wikipedia contributors, “Jazz,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at link #45
   (last visited July 30, 2007).
25. Wikipedia contributors, “Louis Armstrong,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, avail-
    able at link #46 (last visited July 30, 2007).
26. Fairly relaxed, not completely. There is an important tension in jazz created by the way
    the derivative right functions. Because jazz is in essence improvisation, it must build
    upon some other work. But because copyright law treats this other work as expression,
    rather than as an idea, the improvisation requires permission from the underlying copy-
    right owner. In practice, jazz musicians almost never seek that permission, instead rely-
    ing upon the mechanical license to secure permission to record the underlying work.
    That license, however, doesn’t cover derivatives. For a penetrating analysis of these ques-
    tions, see Anonymous, “Jazz Has Got Copyright Law & That Ain’t Good,” Harvard Law
    Review 118 (2005), 1940.
27. Bridgeport Music Inc. v. Dimension Films, 383 F.3d 390 (6th Cir. 2004).
28. William W. Fisher, Promises to Keep (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2004).
29. Peter Lauria, “File- $haring,” New York Post, June 25, 2007.
30. Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster Ltd., 545 U.S. 913 (2005).
31. Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman, “Explaining the Crackdown on Student Download-
    ing,” Inside Higher Ed, March 15, 2007, available at link #47.
32. I also stand by my view that the harms caused by p2p file sharing are overstated by the
    industry. Mark Cooper has now added to this debate. As he has argued effectively, much
    of the loss in sales comes from people buying one or two tracks from an album. LPs forced
    those tracks to be bundled before; digital technology now permits them to be separate. It
    makes no sense to count that “loss” as a harm to society, since it simply represents people
    choosing to buy what they want. See Mark Cooper, Digital Downloading of Music (Wash-
    ington, D.C.: Consumer Federation of America, 2007).
33. Bainwol and Sherman, “Explaining the Crackdown.”

                 Chapter 6. Two Economies: Commercial and Sharing

 1. Yochai Benkler, “Sharing Nicely: On Shareable Goods and the Emergence of Sharing as
    Modality of Economic Production,” Yale Law Journal 114 (2004): 273-358.
 2. Ronald E. Yates, “Internet-Related Manager Tops List of Hottest Jobs; Position Is So
    New and in Such Demand That Candidates’ Lack of Degrees or Advanced Age Are
    Not Seen as Deterrents,” Sun-Sentinel, February 5, 1996. Robert D. Atkinson and Dan-
    iel K. Correa, “The Digital Economy—Internet Domain Names,” The 2007 State New
    Economy Index (2007): 40, available at link #48.
 3. U.S. Census Bureau, “E-Stats-Measuring the Electronic Economy,” available at link #49.
 4. Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, 464 U.S. 417 (1984).
 5. See Julie Niederhoff, “Video Rental Developments and the Supply Chain: Netflix,
    Inc.,” Washington University, St. Louis (2002); Michael K. Mills and Jon Silver, “Analys-
    ing the Effect of Digital Technology on Channel Strategy, Power and Disintermediation
    in the Home Video Market: The Demise of the Video Store?” Video Technology magazine
    (February 2005); IRS, “Retail Industry ATG— Chapter 3: Examination Techniques for
    Specific Industries (Video/DVD Rental Business),” Small Business and Self-Employed
    One-Stop Resource, August 2005, available at link #50; “Videotape Rental—Background
    and Development,” All Business, available at link #51; “Videotape Rental— Current
    Conditions,” All Business, available at link #52.
6. Hoover’s Inc., “Blockbuster, Inc.,”, available at link #53 (last visited August
   7, 2007).
7. Wikipedia contributors, “Blockbuster, Inc.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, avail-
   able at link #54 (last visited July 31, 2007).
8. Keith Regan, “Netflix Taking Over Wal-Mart’s Online DVD Rental Business,” E-
   Commerce Times, May 19, 2005, available at link #55 (last visited July 5, 2007); see also
   Phillip Torrone, “Netflix, Open Up or Die . . . ,” Engadget, July 19, 2004, available at link
9. Hoover’s Inc., “,”, available at link #57 (last visited July 31,
   2007). These numbers reflect sales only. According to reports, Amazon’s net deficit is still
   high— $2 billion as of 2005.
10. Ibid., available at link #58 (last visited July 31, 2007).
11. Wikipedia contributors, “Larry Page,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at
   link #59 (last visited July 31, 2007).
12. Verne Kopytoff, “Google Shares Top $400: Search Engine No. 3 in Market Cap Among
   Firms in Bay Area,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 18, 2005; Yahoo! Finance,
   “GOOG: Key Statistics for Google Inc,” Capital IQ, available at link #60 (last visited July
   5, 2007).
13. Keen, The Cult of the Amateur, 135.
14. The point was made long before by Nicholas Negroponte. “A best-seller in 1990, Nicho-
   las Negroponte’s Being Digital drew a sharp contrast between ‘passive old media’ and
   ‘interactive new media,’ predicting the collapse of broadcast networks in favor of an era
   of narrowcasting and niche media on demand: ‘What will happen to broadcast television
   over the next five years is so phenomenal that it’s difficult to comprehend.’ ” Jenkins, Con-
   vergence Culture, 5.
15. Chris Anderson, The Long Tail (New York: Hyperion, 2006), 23.
16. Alan Cohen, “The Great Race; No Startup Has Cashed In on the DVD’s Rapid Growth
   More Than Netflix. Now Blockbuster and Wal-Mart Want In. Can It Outrun Its Big
   Rivals?,” Fortune Small Business, December 2002–January 2003. “Media Center,” Netf-
   lix, available at link #61 (last visited April 1, 2008).
17. See Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu Jeffrey Hu, and Duncan Simester, “Goodbye Pareto Principle,
   Hello Long Tail: The Effect of Search Costs on the Concentration of Product Sales,” MIT
   Center for Digital Business Working Paper (2007); Paul L. Caron, “The Long Tail of
   Legal Scholarship,” Yale Law Journal 116 Pocket Part 38 (2006); Anita Elberse and Felix
   Oberholzer-Gee, “Superstars and Underdogs: An Examination of the Long Tail Phenom-
   enon in Video Sales,” Harvard Business School No. 07-015 Working Paper Series; Indiana
   Resource Sharing Task Force, “Wagging the Long Tail: Sharing More of Less; Recom-
   mendations for Enhancing Resource Sharing in Indiana,” White Paper (2007); Anindya
   Ghose and Bin Gu, “Search Costs, Demand Structure and Long Tail in Electronic Mar-
   kets: Theory and Evidence,” NET Institute Working Paper No. 06-19 (2006); Teruyasu
   Murakami, “The Long Tail and the Lofty Head of Video Content: The Possibilities of
   ‘Convergent Broadcasting,’ ” Nomura Research Institute, NRI Papers No. 113 (2007).
18. Lee Gomes, “It May Be a Long Time Before the Long Tail Is Wagging the Web,” Wall
   Street Journal, July 26, 2006.
19. All quotes from Robert Young taken from an interview conducted April 26, 2007, by
20. Free as in free speech is different. Robert Young has been a strong supporter of Creative
21. I am grateful to Tim O’Reilly for getting me to see the importance of this point.
22. Dan Bricklin, “The Cornucopia of the Commons: How to Get Volunteer Labor,” Dan
    Bricklin’s Web site, August 7, 2000, available at link #62.
23. Linked from Bricklin, “Cornucopia of the Commons.”
24. Dan Bricklin, “Cornucopia of the Commons,” available at link #63.
25. See “Google Defies US Over Search Data,” BBC News, January 20, 2006, available at
    link #64; Maryclaire Dale, “Judge Throws Out Internet Blocking Law: Ruling States
    Parents Must Protect Children Through Less Restrictive Means,” MSNBC, March 22,
    2007, available at link #65. Google prevailed in its effort to restrict the government’s
    search. See Gonzales v. Google, 234 F.R.D. 674 (N.D. Cal. 2006).
26. Phillip Torrone, “Netflix, Open Up or Die . . . ,” available at link #66.
27. Netflix, Netflix Prize, available at link #67 (last visited July 2, 2007).
28. Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 183.
29. See Tim O’Reilly, “What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next
    Generation of Software,” O’Reilly, September 30, 2005, available at link #68. As Mary
    Madden summarizes the idea, it is “utilizing collective intelligence, providing network-
    enabled interactive services, giving users control over their own data.” Mary Madden and
    Susannah Fox, Riding the Waves of Web 2.0 (Washington, D.C.: Pew Internet Project,
    2006), 1.
30. Ronald H. Coase, “The Nature of the Firm,” Economica 4 (1937): 386–405.
31. Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, 59–60.
32. Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas (New York: Random House, 2001) 35–36.
33. Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma (Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business
    School Press, 1997), 228.
34. Benkler, “Sharing Nicely,” 282.
35. This is the phenomenon of “crowding out” described extensively by Professor Benkler in
    The Wealth of Networks. As he summarizes this work, “Across many different settings,
    researchers have found substantial evidence that under some circumstances, adding
    money for an activity previously undertaken without price compensation reduces, rather
    than increases, the level of activity” (94).
36. See Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality (New York:
    Basic Books, 1984).
37. Lewis Hyde, The Gift—Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (New York: Vintage
    Books, 2004), 3.
38. Ibid., 56.
39. Ibid., 45–46.
40. Ibid., 82.
41. Benkler, “Sharing Nicely,” 327.
42. Ibid.
43. Ibid., 324; see also at 323, describing the work of Bruno Frey.
44. Increasingly the concern among record company executives is with social sharing. See
    Jason Pontin, “A Social-Networking Service with a Velvet Rope,” New York Times, July
    29, 2007.
45. See Eric A. von Hippel and Karim Lakhani, “How Open Source Software Works: ‘Free’
   User-to-User Assistance,” Research Policy 32 (2003): 923–43.

     Kollock (1999) discusses four possible motivations to contribute public goods online.
     Given that his focus is incentives to put online something that has already been created,
     his list does not include any direct benefit from developing the thing itself— either the
     use value or the joy of creating the work product. His list of motives to contribute does
     include the beneficial effect of enhancements to one’s reputation. A second potential
     motivator he sees is expectations of reciprocity. Both specific and generalized reciproc-
     ity can reward providing something of value to another. When information providers
     do not know each other, as is often the case for participants in open source software
     projects, the kind of reciprocity that is relevant is called “generalized” exchange (Ekeh,
     1974). . . . The third motivator posited by Kollock is that the act of contributing can
     have a positive effect on contributors’ sense of “efficacy”—a sense that they have some
     effect on the environment (Bandura, 1995). Fourth and finally, he notes that contribu-
     tors may be motivated by their attachment or commitment to a particular open source
     project or group. In other words, the good of the group enters into the utility equation of
     the individual contributor. (Ibid., 927.)

46. Or so the terms of service for Skype say. See “Skype End User License Agreement—Article
   4 Utilization of Your Computer,” Skype, available at link #69 (last visited July 31, 2007).
47. Daniel H. Pink, “The Book Stops Here,” Wired, March 2005, available at link #70.
48. All quotes from Jimmy Wales taken from an in-person interview conducted May 4, 2007.
49. Seth Anthony, “Contribution Patterns Among Active Wikipedians: Finding and Keep-
   ing Content Creators,” Wikimania Proceedings SA1 (2006), as summarized at link #71
   (last visited August 20, 2007).
50. Aaron Swartz, “Who Writes Wikipedia,” available at link #72 (last visited August 20,
51. “Meetings/February 7, 2005,” Wikimedia Foundation, available at link #73 (last visited
   July 31, 2007).
52. Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 72.
53. Ibid.
54. Noam Cohen, “The Latest on Virginia Tech, from Wikipedia,” New York Times, April
   23, 2007.
55. Ibid.
56. Robert Young and Wendy Goldman Rohm, Under the Radar: How Red Hat Changed the
   Software Business— and Took Microsoft by Surprise (Scottsdale, Ariz.: Coriolis Group
   Books, 1999), 110.
57. Netcraft, “Reports—What Is the Market Share of the Different Servers?” Netcraft—Web
   Server Survey, available at link #74 (last visited July 31, 2007): follow monthly “Index” link
   for November 1996–present; follow monthly “ALL” link for August 1995–October 1996.
58. Steven Weber, The Success of Open Source (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
   2004), 234.
59. Scott E. Page, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms,
   Schools, and Societies (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007).
60. Wikipedia contributors, “Project Gutenberg,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, avail-
   able at link #75 (last visited October 10, 2007).
61. Ibid., available at link #76 (last visited October 10, 2007).
62. “Beginning Proofreaders’ Frequently Asked Questions,” Distributed Proofreaders, avail-
    able at link #77 (last visited July 31, 2007).
63. Wikpedia contributors, “SETI@home,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at
    link #78 (last visited August 20, 2007). See also Benkler, “Sharing Nicely,” 275.
64. Wikpedia contributors, “Einstein@Home,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available
    at link #79 (last visited August 20, 2007).
65. “About the Internet Archive,” Internet Archive, available at link #80 (last visited July 31,
66. All quotes from Brewster Kahle taken from an interview conducted January 24, 2007, by
67. NASA Ames, “Welcome to the Clickworkers Study,” Clickworkers, available at link #81
    (last visited July 31, 2007).
68. B. Kanefsky, N. G. Barlow, and V. C. Gulick, “Can Distributed Volunteers Accomplish
    Massive Data Analysis Tasks,” Thirty-second Annual Lunar and Planetary Science
    Conference 1272 (2001), available at link #82.
69. Ibid., available at link #83.
70. Ibid., available at link #84.
71. Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, 69.
72. “Let Data Speak to Data,” Nature 438 (2005), available at link #85 (last visited July 31,
    2007), cited in Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 159.
73. Ibid., available at link #86 (last visited July 31, 2007).
74. Michael W. Vannier and Ronald M. Summers, “Sharing Images,” Radiology 228 (2003),
    available at link #87.
75. U.S. National Virtual Observatory, available at link #88 (last visited July 31, 2007).
76. “About the Open Directory Project,” Open Directory Project, available at link #89 (last
    visited July 11, 2007).
77. “About Open Source Food,” Open Source Food, available at link #90 (last visited July 11,
78. Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, 121.
79. Bricklin, “The Cornucopia of the Commons,” available at link #91.
80. von Hippel, Democratizing Innovation, 60–61.
81. Steven Weber, The Success of Open Source (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
    2004), 153.
82. von Hippel, Democratizing Innovation, 60–61.
83. Weber, The Success of Open Source, 155.
84. von Hippel and Lakhani, “How Open Source Software Works,” 927.
85. Weber, The Success of Open Source, 224.
86. Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, 16–18.
87. Ibid., 2.
88. Ibid., 3.

                            Chapter 7. Hybrid Economies

 1. I don’t mean to suggest that there weren’t hybrids before the Internet. Think of dog
    shows, open-mike nights at bars, or country fairs. All of these have a dynamic similar to
   the one I identify on the Internet. The only difference is the significance of these hybrids.
   The Internet will enable a much wider range of hybridization, with a much greater eco-
   nomic and social value. I am grateful to Oliver Baker for reminding me of this point.
2. Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, 55.
3. “GNU Free Documentation License,” Free Software Foundation, available at link #92
   (last visited August 20, 2007).
4. All quotes from Brian Behlendorf taken from an interview conducted May 11, 2007, by
5. Red Hat employed 50 percent of Linux’s core team. Telephone interview with Robert
   Young, April 26, 2007.
6. Red Hat and VA Linux gave stock options to Torvalds. Wikipedia contributors, “Linus
   Torvalds,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at link #93 (Last visited July
   31, 2007); Gary Rivlin, “Leader of the Free World,” Wired, November 2003, available at
   link #94.
7. All quotes from Mark Shuttleworth taken from an interview conducted March 19, 2007,
   by telephone.
8. Ted Rheingold, “Don’t Outsource Your Sales,” Dogster & Catster company Blogster,
   available at link #95 (last visited April 1, 2008).
9. All quotes from Internet venture capitalist Joichi Ito taken from an interview conducted
   January 23, 2007, by telephone.
10. “New Cyberspace Classified Ad Technologies to Impact Newspaper Revenues in 3
   Years,” PR Newswire, November 21, 1996.
11. “Newspaper Advertising Being Challenged by the ’Net,” E- Commerce Law Report 11
   (1999), 24.
12. Wikipedia contributors, “craigslist,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at link
   #96 (last visited July 31, 2007).
13. Ibid., available at link #97 (last visited July 31, 2007).
14. All quotes from Craig Newmark taken from an interview conducted January 22, 2007,
   by telephone.
15. Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 190. craigslist charges for job ads.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Nick C. Sortal and Ian Katz, “Volunteers Use Internet to Offer Homes to Katrina Vic-
   tims,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, September 1, 2005.
19. Kathleen Sullivan, “Hurricane Katrina; Lodging Offers Being Posted on Craigslist;
   Across Continent, People Opening Homes to Survivors,” San Francisco Chronicle, Sep-
   tember 4, 2005.
20. Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 187.
21. “Flickr Founder: Creativity Is Human Nature,”, January 17, 2007, available
   at link #98; Dan Fost, “Welcoming Startups into Yahoo’s Fold; Web Portal Works to
   Integrate the Companies It Has Acquired,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 24, 2006,
   available at link #99.
22. All quotes from Stewart Butterfield taken from an interview conducted May 1, 2007, by
23. All quotes from Steve Chen taken from an interview conducted January 29, 2007, by
24. Wikipedia contributors, “YouTube,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at
    link #100 (last visited July 31, 2007); Pete Cashmore, “YouTube Is World’s Fastest Grow-
    ing Website,” Mashable— Social Networking News, July 22, 2006, available at link #101.
25. Wikipedia contributors, “List of YouTube Celebrities,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclope-
    dia, available at link #102 (last visited April 1, 2008).
26. Tim Deal, User- Generated Video on the Web: A Taxonomy and Market Outlook (Silver
    Spring, Md.: Pike & Fischer, 2007), 4.
27. All quotes from Declan McCullagh taken from an interview conducted April 4, 2007, by
28. Declan McCullagh, “About Declan McCullagh’s Politech,” Politech: Politics & Technol-
    ogy, available at link #103 (last visited July 31, 2007).
29. “Yahoo! Groups,” Yahoo!, available at link #104 (last visited January 18, 2008).
30. Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 259.
31. All quotes from Jerry Yang taken from an interview conducted January 24, 2007, by
32. “Yahoo! Answers,” Yahoo!, available at link #105 (last visited April 14, 2008).
33. “Points and Levels,” Yahoo! Answers Point System, available at link #106 (last visited
    August 20, 2007).
34. “Bessemer Venture Partners Funds Jimmy Wales’ Startup Wikia,”, available
    at link #107 (last visited July 31, 2007).
35. Michael Arrington, “Wikia Gaming Launches with 250,000 Articles,” TechCrunch,
    available at link #108 (last visited January 18, 2008).
36. Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 185.
37. Ibid.
38. All quotes from Marc Brandon taken from an interview conducted February 13, 2007, by
39. Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 185.
40. All quotes from Heather Lawver taken from an interview conducted February 1, 2007,
    by telephone.
41. Telephone interview with Heather Lawver, February 1, 2007.
42. Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 187.
43. Elizabeth Weise, “ ‘Potter’ Fans Put Hex of a Boycott on Warner Bros.,” USA Today,
    February 22, 2001; Janine A. Zeitlin, “Potter Fan Masters Her Domain,” Washington
    Times, July 19, 2001.
44. Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 187.
45. Ibid., 186.
46. Ibid., 58.
47. Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 135–36.
48. Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 3.
49. Ibid., 96.
50. Ibid., 133.
51. Maria Alena Fernandez, “ABC’s Lost Is Easy to Find, and Not Just on a TV Screen,” Los
    Angeles Times, January 3, 2006.
52. Ibid.
53. Ibid.
54. Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 127.
55. All quotes from Philip Rosedale taken from an interview conducted February 8, 2007, by
56. Wagner James Au, “Laying Down the Law: The Notary Public of Thyris, New World
   Notes,” New World Notes, available at link #109 (last visited July 31, 2007).
57. “State of Play III— Social Revolutions,” State of Play Architecture Submissions, available
   at link #110 (last visited August 20, 2007).
58. Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (New York: Simon &
   Schuster, 1995), 13.
59. Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 30.
60. Ibid., 39.
61. Ibid., 45.
62. All quotes from Tim O’Reilly taken from an interview conducted January 24, 2007, by

                           Chapter 8. Economy Lessons

1. See Ed Treleven, “Cracking Down of Music Theft; Recording Industry Gets Very
   Aggressive,” Wisconsin State Journal, February 4, 2007. (“Big Champagne found that in
   August 2003, when the RIAA began bringing lawsuits against file-sharers, the average
   number of global peer-to-peer users online at one time was about 3.8 million. Though
   there were peaks and valleys, that number steadily increased to nearly 10 million in
   March 2006. The number dipped slightly but remained steady at around 9 million
   through October, the last month for which Big Champagne has data.”)
2. “2006 10-Year Music Consumer Trends Chart,” RIAA, available at link #111 (last visited
   July 31, 2007).
3. Lydia Pallas Loren, “Building a Reliable Semicommons of Creative Works, Enforcement
   of Creative Commons Licenses and Limited Abandonment of Copyright,” George Mason
   Law Review 14 (2007), available at link #112.
4. Mia Garlick, “Lonely Island,” Creative Commons, available at link #113.
5. von Hippel, Democratizing Innovation, 91.
6. Ibid., 78–79.
7. Ibid., 86.

     Routine and intentional free revealing among profit-seeking firms was first described
     by Allen (1983). He noticed the phenomenon, which he called collective invention, in
     historical records from the nineteenth-century English iron industry. In that indus-
     try, ore was processed into iron by means of large furnaces heated to very high tem-
     peratures. Two attributes of the furnaces used had been steadily improved during the
     period 1850–1875: chimney height had been increased and the temperature of the
     combustion air pumped into the furnace during operation had been raised. These two
     technical changes significantly and progressively improved the energy efficiency of
     iron production—a very important matter for producers. Allen noted the surprising
     fact that employees of competing firms publicly revealed information on their furnace
     design improvements and related performance data in meetings of professional societies
     and in published material. (Ibid., 78.)
 8. Ibid., 80.
 9. William J. Baumol, The Free-Market Innovation Machine: Analyzing the Growth Miracle
    of Capitalism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002), 134–35. See also Mark
    Lemley and Brett Frischmann, “Spillovers,” Columbia Law Review 100 (2006).
10. von Hippel, Democratizing Innovation, 87.
11. Baumol, The Free-Market Innovation Machine, 120.
12. von Hippel, Democratizing Innovation, 42.
13. Ibid., 23.
14. Ibid., 22.
15. Paul Krill, “Sun: Pay Open-Source Developers,” InfoWorld, May 7, 2007, available at link
16. Tapscott and Williams, Wikinomics, 206–7.
17. Ibid., 205.
18. Ibid., 206.
19. Ibid., 209.
20. Ibid., 210.
21. All quotes from David Marglin taken from an interview conducted June 12, 2007, by
22. Robert Lemos, “Companies Fight over CD Listings, Leaving the Public Behind,” CNET, May 24, 2001, available at link #115.
23. Tim Deal, User- Generated Video on the Web: A Taxonomy and Market Outlook (Silver
    Spring, Md.: Pike & Fischer, 2007), 11.
24. See Richard Stallman, “The GNU Manifesto,” GNU Project, available at link #116 (last
    visited August 20, 2007). (“I consider that the golden rule requires that if I like a program
    I must share it with other people who like it.”)
25. See Lessig, The Future of Ideas, 70.
26. “Official Rules for, David Bowie Remix,”, available
    at link #117 (last visited July 31, 2007).
27. Elizabeth Durack, “fans.starwars.con,” Echo Station, available at link #118 (last visited
    July 31, 2007).

                              Chapter 9. Reforming Law

 1. See 17 U.S.C. §§108, 112, 403, 512, 1201, 1203, 1204, 1309.
 2. See, e.g., 17 U.S.C. §115 (establishing a compulsory license for making and distributing
 3. Lawrence Lessig, “The Regulation of Social Meaning,” University of Chicago Law Review
    62 (1995), 943–1045.
 4. “Googling Copyrights,” Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2005.
 5. See Brian Lavoie, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, and Lorcan Dempsey, “Anatomy of Aggre-
    gate Collections: The Example of Google Print for Libraries,” D-Lib Magazine, Septem-
    ber 2005, available at link #119.
 6. See the data in Paul J. Heald, “Property Rights and the Efficient Exploitation of Copyrighted
    Works: An Empirical Analysis of Public Domain and Copyrighted Fiction Best Sellers”
    (January 9, 2007), UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-003, available at link #120.
7. Richard Epstein, Simple Rules for a Complex World (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univer-
   sity Press, 1995).
8. R. Anthony Reese, “Innocent Infringement in U.S. Copyright Law: A History,” Colum-
   bia Journal of Law & the Arts 30 (2007), 133–84.
9. As Patterson explains, before 1909, the law included the word “copies,” but in a section
   defining the scope of the rights, the law made clear that the exclusive right to “copies” did
   not apply to a “book.” Instead, the right was intended to protect works, such as statues,
   that could only be “copied.” L. Ray Patterson, “Free Speech, Copyright, and Fair Use,”
   Vanderbilt Law Review 40 (1987): 40–43.
10. Ibid.
11. Jessica Litman, “The Exclusive Right to Read,” Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Jour-
   nal 13 (1994): 29, 34–35.
12. There are of course important limits on Congress’s power if it is to live up to the obliga-
   tions of international law. I don’t address those limits here. The simplest way to avoid
   inconsistency yet permit significant reform would be to limit the reach of any reform
   to U.S. law alone. More ambitiously, the United States could take the lead in reforming
   international law to make it conform better to creative interests. Christopher Sprigman,
   “Reform(aliz)ing Copyright,” Stanford Law Review 57 (2004): 485.
13. See William W. Fisher, Promises to Keep (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press,
   2004); Neil Weinstock Netanel, “Impose a Non-commercial Use Levy to Allow Free P2P
   File-sharing,” Harvard Journal of Law and Technology 17 (2003): 1; “A Better Way For-
   ward: Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing,” Electronic Frontier Foun-
   dation, available at link #121 (last visited January 18, 2008).

                             Chapter 10. Reforming Us

1. David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York:
   Oxford University Press, 1989), 765.
2. Lessig, The Future of Ideas, 4.
3. Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 134.
4. Ibid., 18.
5. James C. Carter, The Provinces of the Written and the Unwritten Law (New York: Banks &
   Brothers, 1889), 4.
6. James C. Carter, Law: Its Origin, Growth, and Function (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons,
   1907), 323.
7. My favorites are Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
   (New York: Knopf, 2006) and Bob Woodward, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (New
   York: Simon & Schuster, 2006).
8. The simplest claim to support here is that if kids view laws regulating culture as unjust,
   they are less likely to obey those laws. As Professor Geraldine Moohr argues, “a criminal
   law that is not supported by community consensus will be less effective and can even be
   counterproductive. Members of the community will not condemn those who violate such
   laws. This state of affairs can eventually weaken respect for the law. Witnessing punish-
   ment for conduct not viewed as immoral may cause people to view the law as less than
   legitimate and not morally credible. For this reason, courts have been generally cautious
   when deciding whether conduct in which citizens routinely engage is a crime.” Geral-
    dine S. Moohr, “The Crime of Copyright Infringement: An Inquiry Based on Morality,
    Harm, and Criminal Theory,” Boston University Law Review 83 (2003): 731, citing Paul
    H. Robinson and John M. Darley, Justice, Liability and Blame (Boulder, Colo.: Westview
    Press, 1995). As Moohr concludes, “criminalizing copyright infringement may pro-
    duce the opposite of its intended goal.” Similar conclusions have been reached studying
    other “youth crimes,” such as illegal use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. See Claudia
    Amonini and Robert J. Donavan, “The Relationship Between Youth’s Moral and Legal
    Perceptions of Alcohol, Tobacco and Marijuana and Use of These Substances,” Health
    Education Research (2005): 276.
         The harder claim to sustain is that any effect localized around culture crimes might
    bleed to other areas of the law. Scott Menard and David Huizinga have advanced an
    important understanding about the interaction between conventional attitudes and
    delinquent behavior in adolescence, suggesting that changes in attitudes can lead to a
    small increase in delinquent behavior, which in turn will have a reinforcing effect on
    attitudes. See Scott Menard and David Hulzing, “Changes in Conventional Attitudes:
    and Delinquent Behavior in Adolescence,” Youth and Society 26 (1994): 23. But the most
    important, and foundational work supporting this hypothesis is Tom Tyler’s Why Peo-
    ple Obey the Law (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990), 161. Much great
    work has been built upon Tyler’s foundation. But the core insight Tyler advanced in this
    debate—that the “values that lead people to comply voluntarily with legal rules” . . . “form
    the basis for the effective functioning of legal authorities”—underlies the concern that
    local skepticism (or even disgust) with criminal enforcement of laws regulating behav-
    ior perceived to be harmless might generalize beyond that locality. Tyler’s particular
    concern was procedural legitimacy. The in terrorem tactics of the RIAA and MPAA cer-
    tainly weaken any perceived procedural legitimacy to the enforcement of these culture
         The strongest support for the idea that perceived injustice in one law can spill over
    to others comes from the extraordinary work of Professor Janice Nadler. In her essay
    “Flouting the Law,” Texas Law Review 83 (2005): 1399, she provides experimental evi-
    dent to support the hypothesis that willingness to disobey can extend far beyond a par-
    ticular unjust law.
         The most obvious or appealing parallel—to youth in the Soviet Union—is a harder
    claim to sustain. Paradoxically, even though youth in the Soviet Union were referred to
    as the “bewildered generation”—bewildered by the hypocrisy and double standards of
    the late Soviet Union especially—“the Soviet Union was unique in its attempt to con-
    trol and shape the development of its youth into ‘proper Communist citizens’ ” (James O.
    Finckenauer, Russian Youth [New Brunswick; N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1995], 80).
    See also June Louin-Tapp, “The Geography of Legal Socialization,” Droit Et Société 19
    (1991): 331, 349 (“Soviet youth perceive USSR law and its applications to be more fair
    than American youth perceive US law and its applications”). Thus, while there’s lit-
    tle doubt that juvenile crime was rising by the end of the Soviet Union, it is difficult to
    compare Soviet attitudes with American attitudes. Both may suffer the same negative
    effect (laws seen to be unjust), but only one had an extensive propaganda effort to counter
    the consequences of that effect (the Soviet Union). See also Walter D. Connor, “Juve-
    nile Delinquency in the USSR,” American Sociological Review 35 (1970): 283 (concluding
    delinquency not “protest”). See also Emanuela Carbonara, Francesco Parisi, and Georg
   von Wangenheim, “Unjust Laws and Illegal Normas,” Minnesota Legal Studies Research
   Paper No. 08–03 (January 2008) (modeling effect of social opposition to unjust laws on
   effects of legal intervention).
9. Anonymous, “Who Passes Up the Free Lunch” (unpublished, 2007) (on file with

1. See Carl J. Dahlman, “The Problem of Externality,” Journal of Law and Economics 22
   (1979): 141.
2. Thomas Jefferson letter to Isaac Mcpherson, August 13, 1813, reprinted in H. A. Wash-
   ington, ed., Writings of Thomas Jefferson 1790–1826, vol. 6 (Washington, D. C: Taylor &
   Maury, 1854), 180–81; quoted in Graham v. John Deere Company of Kansas, 383 U. S. 1,
   8–9n.2 (1966).
3. See Mark Stefik, ed., “Epilogue: Choices and Dreams,” Internet Dreams: Archetypes,
   Myths, and Metaphors (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996), 391.
4. Rick E. Bruner, “Blogging Is Booming,” iMedia Connection, April 5, 2004, available at
   link #122 (last visited January 18, 2008).
5. Stephen Breyer, “The Uneasy Case for Copyright: A Study of Copyright in Books, Pho-
   tocopies, and Computer Programs,” Harvard Law Review 84 (1970): 281.
6. See Lessig, Code Version 2.0, 409n8.
7. Al Gore, The Assault on Reason (New York: Penguin Press, 2007), 194.
8. Ibid., 195.


ABC, 213                                   astronomy, 170–71
Academy Awards, 45–46                      Atmo, 73
access, 43–49, 67, 106, 255, 261, 291      AudioMulch, 12
advertising, 2, 48–49                      Awesometown, 227
  blogs and, 63, 291
  classified, 187                           Bainwol, Mitch, 114
  Dogster and, 187                         Baker, Stewart, 89
  Wikia and, 204–5                         Barish, Stephanie, 80
  Wikipedia and, 161–62, 203–4             Barlow, John Perry, 67
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), 148             barter economies, 180
Alexa, 236–37                              Baumol, William, 230
Alexander, Alastair, 208                   Beam-it, 135
Allman, Eric, 163–64                       Beatles, 74, 75, 255
amateur creativity, 33, 90, 103            Becker, Don, 180
  deregulation of, 254–59                  Behlendorf, Brian, 164, 183, 242–43
  in music, 24–29, 32–33                   Benkler, Yochai, 50, 58, 59, 62, 118,
Amazon, 48–49, 125–26, 129–30, 141,              140, 146, 169, 172, 176, 178
     142, 239–40                           Berners-Lee, Tim, 58, 221
  Little Brother and, 132, 136             Bezos, Jeff, 125, 129, 136
Amazon Web Services (AWS), 126, 138        Biancolo, Jim, 126
Anderson, Chris, 129                       BigChampagne Online Media, 199                                 Measurement, 110
anime music videos (AMVs), 77–78, 79, 80   BIND, 164
AOL, 153–54                                Blair, Tony, 73–74, 273
Apache, 164–65, 183, 241–42      , 249
Apple, 88, 142, 165                        Blockbuster, 123–24, 129, 142
  iPod, 41, 46, 47, 88                     blogs, 57, 58–62, 63–65, 103, 139, 291
  iTunes, 12, 13, 41–42, 134                  value of, 92–93
Armstrong, Edwin Howard, 30                books, 42, 99–100, 268, 269, 291, 292
Armstrong, Louis, 104                         access to, 43–44

books (cont.)                                        crossovers and, 227–28
 Amazon and, see Amazon                             hybrid economies and, 177–78, 225,
 Google and, 260–61                                    228–31; see also hybrid economies
 Long Tail principle and, 129–30                    on Internet, 119, 121–43
 Lulu and, 130–31                                   Little Brother and, 132–37, 143
 Project Gutenberg and, 166–67, 175                 Long Tail principle in, 42, 128–32, 143
 rereadings of, 94–95                               parallel economies and, 225–26
 Safari and, 235–36                                 sharing economies and, 145–51, 177–78,
Bowie, David, 244                                       225–26, 252
Brandon, Marc, 206, 208–9, 210–11, 258               success in, 141–43
Breitz, Candice, 6–11, 17, 36n                       tools signaling, 226
Breyer, Justice Stephen, 292                       commercial vs. noncommercial use, 55, 254
Bricklin, Dan, 132–34, 136, 155, 173, 195,         communities, 184–85, 213–20, 221, 222–24
    224, 234                                        remixes and, 77–80
Buckingham, David, 78                                Young on, 180
Buckmaster, Jim, 188                               community spaces, 186–96
Bush, George, 72–74, 273, 293                      competition, 49, 56, 89–90, 270
Butterfield, Stewart, 191–94                        CompUSA, 180
                                                  Congress, xviii, xxii, 33, 101, 102, 103,
Caldera, 181                                            109, 110, 253, 255, 259, 263, 266–69,
Canonical Ltd., 184                                     271–73, 279, 293
Canter & Siegel, 57–58                               civil rights and, 257
Carter, James, 280–81                              Constitution, U.S., 260, 275
Carter, Jimmy, xiv                                 “Content Is Not King” (Odlyzko), 89
cassette tapes, 30, 37, 102                        Convergence Culture (Jenkins), 28
Catster, 187                                       copies, 98–102, 255, 276–77, 290–91
ccMixter, 16–17, 97, 226                             decriminalization of, 268–71, 279
CD Database (CDDB), 133–34, 237–39                 copyright law, 96, 97, 244–45, 276–77,
CDs, 30, 37, 99, 110, 284, 285, 286                     289–94
Çelik, Tantek, 221–22                                Baker on, 89
cell phones, 68                                      clear title in, 260–65
Census, U.S. Bureau of, 68                           commercial vs. noncommercial use and,
Chen, Steve, 194, 195–96, 224                           55, 254
Cho, Seung-Hui, 161                                  competition and, 90, 270
Christensen, Clayton M., 143                         decriminalizing copies and, 268–71, 279
civil rights, 257–58                                 decriminalizing file sharing and,
CNET, 198                                               271–72
Coase, Ronald, 139–40                                decriminalizing youth and, 248–49,
Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace                       283, 293
     (Lessig), 281                                  de minimis exception to, 104
collaboration, 196–213, 276                          deregulating amateur creativity and,
collage, 70–71, 76                                      254–59
collecting societies, 256                            destructive and self-defeating
Comedies of Fair U$e conference, 91                     aspects of, 109–14
Commerce, U.S. Department of, 39                     externalities and, 289, 291, 292–93
commercial economies, 116, 118, 119–43,              fair use and, 91, 99, 100, 103, 123,
     176, 177                                          255–56, 260, 266–67

   history of, 100–101, 103, 262–63, 268–69      Dash, Anil, 233
   hybrid economies and, 248–49                  Dean, Howard, 62
   importance of limits in, 31–33, 56            defamation, 275
   licenses and, see licenses          , 59, 60, 233
   as opt-in system, 262–63                      democracy, 27, 67, 142, 249, 282
   as opt-out system, 263                        democratization, 25, 52–53, 54–55, 90,
   proper function of, 85                              107, 140–41, 252
   property law and, 264–65                      De Sola Pool, Ithiel, 96
   reforming, 253–73, 278, 279                   Dickens, Charles, 94–95
   registration and, 262–65                      Diebold, 62
   RO culture and, 97–100, 105                   Digg, 59
   RW culture and, 97, 100–105, 108              Digital Rights Management (DRM), 41,
   simplification of, 266–68                            42, 47–48, 67, 98, 99, 235, 290–91
   Sousa and, 23–27, 31–33                       Digital Sky Project, 170–71
   work for hire and, 244                        Digital Storytelling project, 80–81, 261–62
copyright wars, xv–xxii, 34, 39–40,              digital technologies, 38–43, 69, 83, 84,
      293–94                                           98–100, 103, 252, 253, 262
   collateral damage in, 17–18                      and access to media, 46–49
Corely, Eric, 2                                     advertising and, 48
“Cornucopia of the Commons, The”                 Disney, 55, 102, 122
      (Bricklin), 132–34, 173                    distributed computing, 167–68
corruption, 283, 293, 294                        Distributed Proofreaders, 167
craigslist, 187–91, 195                          diversity, 185, 186, 231, 252
Creative Commons (CC), 15–17, 172, 192,          Dogster, 186–87, 213
      226, 227, 228, 244, 277–79                 doujinshi, 79, 80
creativity, 18, 19                               Doyle, Michael, 11–12
   amateur, see amateur creativity               Duffy, Kevin Thomas, 53–54
   cultures of, see culture(s)                   DVDs, 2, 30, 37, 38, 94, 124, 129, 144–45
   Long Tail and, 130, 131                       DVRs, 44
   original, 91–92, 93, 95
Cult of the Amateur, The (Keen), 90–91           economies, 116, 117–18, 225–49
cultural literacy, 81, 107                          commercial, see commercial economies
cultural references, 74–75                          crossovers in, 227–28
culture(s), 18                                      hybrid, see hybrid economies
   access to, 43–49, 67, 106, 255, 261, 291         parallel, 225–26
   diversity of, 42                                 sharing, see sharing economies
   found, 75                                        spillovers and, 229–31
   RO, see RO culture                               tools to signal types of, 226–27
   RW, see RW culture                               value in, 88–90
   Sousa’s view of, 24–29, 32–33, 35, 36, 50     education, 85–86, 274
   standards in, 96–97                              legal, 86
Currier, Frank Dunklee, 32                          remixes and, 80–82
Cuse, Carlton, 213                               Einstein@Home, 167–68
                                                 election of 2004, 62–63
Daily Prophet, 206                               Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF),
Daley, Elizabeth, 80                                   3, 271
Danger Mouse, 255                                Ellis, Jim, 57

eMusic, 12, 42                                       Gore, Al, 293
Everything Bad Is Good for You (Johnson),            Gracenote, 134, 237–39
    93–94                                           Green, Rich, 232
Ewing, Marc, 181, 182                                Grokster, xxi, 110
externalities, 289, 291, 292–93                      Guggenheim, Davis, 275
eyeVio, 249
                                                    “Hard Working George” (Sadler), 72–73
fair use, 91, 99, 100, 103, 123, 255–56,             Harry Potter, 206–12, 245, 246, 258–59
     260, 266–67                                    Hart, Michael, 166, 167
Fake, Caterina, 191–92, 233                          Hastings, Reed, 124
fan cultures, 205–13, 245–48, 258–59, 276            Hollywood, 205–13, 291, 292, 294;
Fight Censorship, 197                                  see also movies
file sharing, see peer-to-peer file sharing            Hosler, Mark, 70, 71, 75, 76, 81, 107
films, see movies                                     Hurley, Chad, 194
Fisher, William, 109, 271, 272                       Hurricane Katrina, 189–91
Flickr, 191–94, 233                                  Hutchinson, Thomas, 147
found culture, 75                                    hybrid economies, 34, 35, 116, 118, 119,
fourstones, 95                                            177–224, 225, 252, 253, 274, 294
Fox, 71, 227                                           collaboration spaces and, 196–213
Franks, Charles, 167                                   communities and, 213–20
“free” content, 47–48                                  community spaces and, 186–96
Free Culture (Lessig), xvi–xvii, 80, 89, 113           decriminalizing youth and, 248–49
Future of Ideas, The (Lessig), xvi                     fairness in, 231–43
                                                      free software, 163–66, 172, 173–75,
Gansky, Lisa, 192                                         179–85, 219, 220, 240–43, 291
Geilhufe, David, 191                                   incentives for commercial entities to
Ghosh, Rishab, 173                                        become, 228–31
Gift, The (Hyde), 147–48, 149                          Internet, 116
gifts, 147–48                                          sharecropping in, 243–48
GigaOmniMedia, 232                                   Hyde, Lewis, 147–48, 149
Gil, Gilberto, 66–67, 256
Gillis, Gregg, 11–15                                 IBM, 241–42
Girl Talk, 11–13, 17, 18, 69–70, 104                 ideas, 290
global warming, 292, 293, 294                        innovation, 25, 221, 228–29
GNU, 162, 163, 182, 184, 240–41                         LEGO-ized, 137–41, 143
Goddard Space Flight Center, 180                        spillovers and, 229–31
Godwin, Mike, 156                                    Innovator’s Dilemma, The (Christensen),
Goethe Institute, 92                                       143
Gomes, Lee, 130                                      integrity, 87, 92
Google, 127–28, 141, 142, 190, 197, 224,             International Federation of the
     234, 241                                             Phonographic Industry, 39
  books digitized by, 260–61                        Internet, 30, 34, 40, 58, 68, 69, 102–3, 116,
  Little Brother and, 132, 136–37                         163, 230, 252
  mash-ups, 138                                        commercial economies and, 119, 121–43
  YouTube acquired by, 194                             hybrid economies and, 116, 177, 178;
Google Application Programming                             see also hybrid economies
     Interfaces (APIs), 128, 137, 138                  Keen on, 90–91

   LEGO-ized innovation and, 137–41, 143            Li, Charlene, 61–62
   Little Brother and, 132–37, 143                  Library of Congress, 106, 262–63
   sharing economies and, 119, 155–72               licenses, 99, 100, 103, 109, 110–11, 183, 256,
Internet Archive, 168, 175, 232, 236                      257, 271
Internet Movie Database (IMDb), 239–40                 Creative Commons, 15–17, 172, 192,
“invisible hand,” 49–50                                   226, 227, 228, 244, 277–79
iPod, 41, 46, 47, 88                                   Wikipedia and, 157, 161
Iraq, 281–82                                        Lindelof, Damon, 213
Ito, Joi, 200, 218–19                               Linden Lab, 215, 219, 220
Ito, Mimi, 78, 79, 80                               links, 60, 61, 127
iTunes, 41–42, 134                                  Linux, 2, 162, 163, 180–84, 240–41
   Girl Talk and, 12, 13                               Red Hat, 130, 181–85
                                                    Litman, Jessica, 269
Jackson, Andrew, 275                                Little Brother, 132–37, 143
Jackson, Michael, 5                                 Lonely Island, 227
Jarvis, Jeff, 233–34                                Long Tail, The (Anderson), 129
Jay-Z, 255                                          Long Tail principle (LTP), 42, 128–32, 143
Jefferson, Thomas, 27, 106, 131–32, 262,            Los Angeles Times, 212
      290–91                                        Lost, 212–13
Jenkins, Henry, 28, 78, 81, 94, 206–7, 212, 276     Lott, Trent, 62
Jobs, Steve, 40                                     Lucas, George, 246, 247–48
Johnson, Mark, xiv                                  Lucasfilm, 245–46, 247, 277
Johnson, Steven, 93–94                              Lulu, 130–31
Jones, Scott, 238
Joyce, Don, 54, 70, 71, 272–73                      McCracken, Grant, 212
Jupiter Research, 110                               McCullagh, Declan, 196–98
juries, 87                                          McIntosh, Jonathan, 71–72
                                                    Madonna, 6, 8
Kahle, Brewster, 58, 168, 232, 236–37, 239          Malik, Om, 232–33
Kan, Ti, 237–38                                     Marglin, David, 237, 238, 239
Karim, Jawed, 194                                   markets:
Kasem, Casey, 13, 75                                  competitive, 49, 56, 89–90
Keen, Andrew, 90–91, 127                              complementary, 56
Kelly, Kevin, 59                                      free, 139–40, 142
Kerry, John, 72                                     Marley, Bob, 5, 9
Kind, Jonathan, 149                                 Marley, Rita, 9
Kodak, 192                                          Mars Mapping Project, 168–70
Kollock, Peter, 174                                 Mashin’ of the Christ, The (Negativland),
Lakoff, George, xiv, xv                             mash-ups, see remixes
Lasica, J. D., 55                                   Matrix, The, 71–72, 199–200                                    media:
Lawver, Heather, 206–10, 246                          fan participation in, 205–13, 245–48,
LEGO-ized innovation, 137–41, 143                        258–59, 276
Lennon, John, 5, 6, 8, 9–11                           prohibitionists and collaborationists
Lenz, Stephanie, 1–5, 254–55                             in, 276
Lethem, Jonathan, 96                                  in RW culture, 68–83

Meza, Philip, 30                                   Negativland, 13, 54, 70, 71, 75–76, 107
MGM v. Grokster, xxi, 110                          Netanel, Neil, 271
Microsoft, 142, 164–65, 181                        Netflix, 122–24, 129, 132, 137–38,
 Usenet and, 200–202                                   142, 193
Mohsenin, Kamran, 192                              network effects, 153–54
morality, 287                                      Newmark, Craig, 187, 188, 189, 191, 235
Motion Picture Association of                      newspapers, 62
    America, xvii                                 New York Times, 161
movies, 30–31, 37, 42, 68, 85, 91, 242, 243,       New York Unix, 179
    269, 276, 291, 292                            Nielsen Media Research, 68
 access to, 43–44                                 Night Ripper, 11, 12
 collaborative hybrids and, 205–13                NPD, 111
 complexity in, 94                                Nupedia, 156
 home, 55, 69, 88
 IMDb and, 239–40                                 Odlyzko, Andrew, 89
 Netflix and, see Netflix                           Ofoto, 192
 quoting with, 54, 55                             Ono, Yoko, 9–10, 11, 39, 134–35                                Open Directory Project, 171
music, 42, 68, 69, 85, 242, 243, 269, 291, 292     Open Source Food, 171–72
 amateur, 24–29, 32–33                            O’Reilly, Tim, 139, 223–24, 235–36
 ccMixter and, 16–17, 97, 226                     outsourcing, 140, 233
 CDDB and, 133–34, 237–39
 on CDs, 30, 37, 99, 110, 284, 285, 286           Page, Larry, 127
 complexity and value of, 95–96                   Page, Scott, 165–66, 174
 declining sales of, 40, 225–26                   Patterson, Lyman Ray, 268
 file sharing and, see peer-to-peer                PayPal, 140, 194
    file sharing                                   peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing, 18, 109,
 iTunes and, see iTunes                                 110–14, 150, 225, 282–83, 284–87
 jazz, 103–4                                         decriminalizing, 271–72 and, 199–200                                MGM v. Grokster, xxi, 110 and, 39, 134–35                             Napster, xvii, 39, 41, 133, 276
 quoting in, 54, 55                               PeopleFinder Project, 191
 on records, 23–25, 26, 29–30, 37, 38, 269        Perl, 164
 remixes of, see remixes                          Pike & Fisher, 240
 sampling in, 53–54, 104, 273                     piracy, xv–xvi, xvii, xviii, 2, 38, 40, 41,
 Sousa’s views on, 23–29, 31–33, 132, 254               44, 109, 111, 113, 210, 249, 258,
 turn-of-the-century technologies and,                  283–87, 293
    23–24                                            Sousa and, 23, 24
 see also recording industry                      player pianos, 24, 29, 269
music videos, 68                                   Pokémon, 78
 anime, 77–78, 79, 80                             Politech, 197–98
                                                  pollution, 292, 293, 294
Napster, xvii, 39, 41, 133, 276                    Posner, Richard, 65–66, 67
NASA, 168–70                                       Prince, 1–5
National Science Foundation (NSF),                 privacy, 49, 136–37
    170–71                                        Project Gutenberg, 166–67, 175
Nature, 170                                        property law, 264–65

prostitution, 146, 150                           Robertson, Michael, 134–35
public domain, 263                               Rosedale, Philip, 215–16, 219–20, 236
                                             Rosen, Jeff, 136
quoting, 51–56, 69, 82, 107                      Rowling, J. K., 206
                                             RW (Read/Write) culture, 28–29, 33,
Rademacher, Paul, 138                                 34–35, 50, 51–83, 116, 252, 253, 274
radio, xxi–xxii, 30, 68                            copyright law and, 97, 100–105, 108
Raymond, Eric, 173                                 economic value promoted by, 88–90
reading, 68–69, 87                                 importance and value of, 106–8
“Read My Lips” (Söderberg), 73–74                  media in, 68–83
recording industry, 29, 41, 199, 225–26, 276       RO culture compared with, 84–114
declining sales and, 40, 225–26                 text in, 57–68, 69
file sharing and, see peer-to-peer               value of works created in, 90–97
  file sharing                                  values and, 85–88
Recording Industry Association of
  America (RIAA), 39, 114, 226, 242,         Sadler, Sim, 72–73
  283, 284, 286                              Safari Books Online, 235–36
records, phonograph, 23–25, 26, 29–30,           sampling, 53–54, 104, 273
  37, 38, 269                                San Francisco Chronicle, 190
Reddit, 59                                       Sanger, Larry, 156, 157
Red Hat Linux, 130, 181–85                       Saturday Night Live, 227–28
Reese, Tony, 101                                 Scherf, Steve, 237–28
registration, 262–65                             Scholastic, 206
regulation, xx–xxi, 292                          Second Life, 213, 214–20, 236
limits of, 280–87                             Sefton-Green, Julia, 78
Rhapsody, 42                                     segregation, 257–58
remixes (mash-ups), 14–15, 56, 68–83, 103,       SETI, 167
  252, 254–57, 294                           Sendmail, 163–64
communities and, 77–80                        sharecropping, 243–48
education and, 80–82                          sharing economies, 116, 118–19, 143–76,
Girl Talk and, 11–13, 17, 18, 69–70, 104            177, 223
goods created by, 76–82                          commercial economies and, 145–51,
sharecropping and, 243–48                           177–78, 225–26, 252
SilviaO and, 16–17, 95                           crossovers and, 227–28
text-based, 82                                   hybrid economies and, 177–78, 225;
Rhapsody, 129                                          see also hybrid economies
Richie, Lionel, 74                                  on Internet, 119, 155–72
Rivera, Geraldo, 72                                 motivations for participation in, 151–54,
Rohm, Wendy Goldman, 163–64                            172–76, 291
RO (Read/Only) culture, 28–31, 34–35,               parallel economies and, 225–26
  36–50, 116, 252, 253                          thick, 152, 154
copyright law and, 97–100, 105                   thin, 152–54
in the digital age, 106                          tools signaling, 226–27
economic value and, 88                        Sherman, Cary, 114
importance and value of, 105–6                Shuttleworth, Mark, 184–85
RW culture compared with, 84–114              SilviaO, 15–17, 95
values and, 84–88                             Sims, Charles, 91–92, 93, 95

Six Apart, 233                                  transaction costs, 139–40
Skype, 153                                      Trevithick, Richard, 229
slander, 275                                    Truscott, Tom, 57
Slashdot, 198–99                                Turkle, Sherry, 217–18
Smith, Adam, 49–50                              2600, 2
Smith, Marc, 201–2
Söderberg, Johan, 70, 73, 75, 273               Ubuntu Linux, 184–85
software, 221                                   Under the Radar (Young and Rohm),
  free and open-source, 163–66, 172,                163–64
     173–75, 179–85, 219, 220, 240–43, 291     Universal Music Group, 2–5, 102, 122
Sony, xxi, 2, 10, 40, 102, 241, 244, 249        University of Houston, 80–81, 261–62
Sousa, John Philip, 23–29, 31–33, 35, 36,       Usenet, 57–58, 200–202
     50, 56, 82, 132, 254, 280                 U.S. National Virtual Observatory, 171
Southwestern Bell, 181–82                       U2, 13, 75
spam, 58
Spears, Britney, 95–96                          Valenti, Jack, xvii–xviii
spillovers, 229–31                              values, 84–88
Stallman, Richard, 157, 163, 179, 182, 183      Vander Wal, Thomas, 59
Star Wars, 245–46, 247                          Vantongerloo, Zarf, 216–17
Sterling, Thomas, 180                           VCRs and videocassettes, xxi, 2, 30, 37, 38,
stock markets, 152–53, 154                           45, 102, 122–23
Stone, Victor, 75, 97                           Viacom, 2
Success of Open Source, The (Weber),            video(s), 42, 69, 103
     174–75                                       access to, 44
Sun Microsystems, 181, 232                         home, 55, 69, 88
Sunstein, Cass, 126                                YouTube and, see YouTube
Supreme Court, U.S., 102, 110, 123, 225,        videos, music, 68
     291–92                                       anime, 77–78, 79, 80
  MGM v. Grokster, xxi, 110                    Virginia Tech massacre, 160, 161
  segregation and, 257                         VisiCalc, 132
Swartz, Aaron, 158                              Voice Over IP (VOIP), 153, 154
                                               Von Hippel, Eric, 25, 141, 173,
tags, 59–60, 61                                      228–30, 231
Tapscott, Don, 60, 138, 159, 212, 221,
     233, 234                                  Wales, Jimmy, 156–62, 204–5
technologies:                                   Wall, Larry, 164
  analog, limitations of, 37–38, 48            Wall Street Journal, 129–30, 260, 265
  digital, see digital technologies            Wal-Mart, 124
Technorati, 58, 61, 221, 233                    Walzer, Michael, 147
television, 30, 42, 68, 88, 276                 war, xiii–xv, 287
  access to, 43–46                             Warner Bros., 206–12, 245, 258–59
  complexity of shows on, 94                   Wayback Machine, 58
  election of 2004 and, 62–63                  Wealth of Nations, The (Smith), 49–50
  in hotels, 46–47                             Wealth of Networks, The (Benkler), 50
text, see writing                               Web 2.0, 139, 140
Torvalds, Linus, 163, 183                       Weber, Steven, 174–75
TouchGraph, 126                                 Well, the, 213

White Cube, 5–6, 8, 9–11                           writing, 52–53, 54, 57–68, 69, 86–87, 93,
“Who Passes Up the Free Lunch,”                         106, 107–8, 274–75
     284–87                                          quoting in, 51–53, 54, 55, 69, 82, 107
Wikia, 203–5, 213
wikinomics, 221                                    Xerox, 102
Wikinomics (Tapscott and Williams), 138
Wikipedia, 90, 155–62, 175–76, 185, 186,           Yahoo!, 142, 190, 197, 233
     190, 195, 203–4, 291                            Answers, 202–3
wikis, 156                                           Flickr acquired by, 193, 194
Wilco, 150                                         Yankovic, Weird Al, 207, 286
Williams, Anthony, 60, 138, 159, 212, 221,         Yang, Jerry, 202–3, 222–23
     233, 234                                      Young, Robert, 130–31, 163–64, 179–82,
Williams, Evan, 134                                     183, 241
Wired, 59, 129, 156, 164                           YouTube, 194–96, 224, 234–35, 249, 256,
World of Warcraft, 218–19                               265, 266
World Wide Web, 58, 221                              Academy Awards on, 45–46
  see also Internet                                  Lenz video on, 1–5, 254–55